Special Beat Service
The English Beat
1982: IRS 44797 5069 2
One of the mightiest of the mighty, for me, in terms of the power to evoke times long past. Thankfully the albums still great fun to listen to even now, as are its individual songs for the most part, but its nostalgic wallop is fierce if you happen to remember this music from those times.
I have my favorite tracks on this, ones Ive loved for yearsSugar and Stress, Shes Going, and Rotating Head, above allbut in combination they deliver their strongest punch with End of the Party. Its partly the restless chord progression that never resolves, and its partly its following the elegantly frantic Sugar and Stress and the latters abrupt ending, but End of the Party for me is like actually hearing the sound at the time, like being *at* a fading party in the very early 80s as the party animals and other wild ones have moved on and what remains are dregs and earnest private battles being haggled in the face of impending dawn.
That, for me, is a formidible cocktail of baggage and heartstrings, and when the song plays I find myself unable to do anything but listen to it, frozen in place, hypnotized by just one man expressing his anxiety about his relationship with just one woman . The chords overlap like a very slow shuffling of cards, never changing but always sounding different, and the tone changes only slightly from frustration to mesmerized painful near-resignation. Add to that a dash of heavily hot Walla Walla summer night, and you have a permanent stamp on the psyche a sound of someone wishing they could just cry and never quite breaking that borderline.
Well, thats enough about one track. Another standout is Shes Going, which for me still ranks as one of the finer achievements of pop music, a track that still makes most of the 1990s rock output look like amazingly lame shit by comparison to the vitality of this baby. It moves at twice the speed of most rock songs, for starters, but on top of that it delivers its arsenal of expression that fast without skimping: the lyric is fierce and almost cutthroat and its FAST and utterly danceable as long as you can dance that fast. The chord progressions are on the dark side of kicky but never lag to belabor the point, and the saxophones power is like a showoff stallion in the overall context, not showcased so much as teamed with the other thunderingly fast and tight guns that deliver this frantic gem. God, how it conjures up so many hot early 80s nights for me . As far as its subject matter goes, it makes an interesting counterpart to the early Eurythmics B-side Babys Gone Blue.
And through all this, theres the incongruity of Dave Wakelings voice, which is a lovely husky beast that simply does NOT match his physical appearance. It took me years to attach the two, and even now I have a hard time picturing him singing these songs obviously I need to watch it happen in concert sometime.
Comments © 2005 Mark Ellis Walker, except as noted, and no claim is made to the images and quoted lyrics.