The English Beat – Here We Go Love

  • Cole Faulkner posted
  • Reviews

The English Beat

Here We Go Love - Here We Go Love LLC

The Beat, or as us North Americans know them as, The English Beat, is back with their first new album in over 30 years!  If that little marketing soundbite sounds familiar, then you should know this isn’t a case of deja vu.  Before you end up scratching your head in confusion, it’s important to be aware that The Beat of yesteryear reunited in two factions.  Ranking Roger took the UK territory under the name The Beat/New English Beat Featuring Ranking Roger, and principle songwriter Dave Wakeling resurrected his own iteration in the US as The Beat/The English Beat.  Their debuts are positioned two years apart, making for maximum confusion in the music world.

That being said, The Beat Featuring Ranking Roger was a beast of a release, and one of my favourite ska/reggae releases of that year, leaving Wakeling with a high bar to debut his offshoots’ against.  The result, Here We Go Love, finds Wakeling and his crew putting their best foot forward for thirteen tracks of new wave ska and 2-tone melodies.  Built upon infectious upstroke melodies and a generous dosage of brass accompaniment, the disc projects an easy flowing aura that also doubles as the life of the party.

The disc opens with the zany vocalizations and jumpy upstroke that feeds The Beat’s long standing reputation.  Now, it should be noted that the band sounds entirely modern, and doesn’t feel rooted in the 80’s of which they originate.  In that regard, the band is clearly leveraging their ska and raggae affiliation more than in the past. Opener “How Can You Stand There” is a high energy dose of radio-friendly ska with plenty of alto saxophone bursts and chorus propelled organ quivers.  As some fans have pointed out, the band’s contemporary sound shares more similarities with Ranking and Wakeling’s sequel project, General Public, but determining where one ends and the other begins is like a practice in splitting hairs.  Either way, the album commands its own distinctive identity within The Beat’s catalogue.

Generally, songs range from light, airy, and optimistically fun, to something you’d expect to find playing in the background of a beach while the sun sets on a caribbean vacation.  Tracks like “The One And The Only” align with the former, breezing along with light hearted piano keys and sunny acoustic feel. But at times they perhaps push too far in that direction, like the title track, which just gets outright goofy and feels a little overly loose in execution.  In comparison, tighter tracks like “If Killing Worked” feel no less vibrant, but channel a more natural, and less forced outcome, promoting a pacifistic message in the lines, “if killing worked, it would have worked by now … how can we live when all we’ve learned is to give more pain in return.”

Meanwhile, the Caribbean feeling tracks come together with a more organic sense.  “The Love You Give” and “Dem Call it Ska” serve as pure creative celebrations of reggae and ska culture, capitalizing on the hip shaking, swanky bass-based sounds that the 2-tone genre is known for, but while drawing reggae more heavily in the mix.   Comparisons with classics like The Specials and The Selecter that the band once shared the spotlight with in the late 80’s persist as accurate for comparison, continuing to resist the third wave ska that dominated the mainstream towards the tail end of the band’s initial career.  Tracks like “Every Time You Told Me” even dig deep into blues and swing, drawing heavily upon saxophone and backing gospel choir-like vocals for attitude.

Long time fans will always fall victim to unrealistic comparisons and expectations when it comes to revivals, but the dual nature of the Wakeling-Ranking split puts The Beat in a particularly precarious situation.  After listening to Here We Go Love, the best advice might be to just not force a comparison between the two factions, and enjoy each for what it is.  Wakeling’s iteration is definitely the most true to The Beat’s heritage, which can be attributed to his role as front man, while Ranking’s version is a fine spiritual successor for its own unique attributions.  For that reason I will resist comparing the two, and let each speak for itself. Here We Go Love covers a lot of ground – some more successfully than others – but it does it with a love and respect for The Beat’s legacy that should satisfy longtime fans, as well as find appreciation in newcomers thirty years later.  That’s about the best outcome a revival can hope for.