January 31, 2019 The Specials – Encore (Album Review)
Arguably one of the most important British bands of all time, after 37 years of silence, The Specials are set to return with a new album on Friday, February 1, 2019 via Island Records.
With 2019 marking the 40th anniversary of the band’s formation, it seemed like a fitting time to release new music, and what better name to call their return album Encore. These SKA masters, who came together in the late ’70s, have proven times where common sense seems to have vanished from society, inspiration hits.
For Encore, founding members Terry Hall (vocals), Lynval Golding (guitar/vocals), and Horace Panter (bass) have once again joined forces with trusted collaborator Torp Larson to rattle listeners back to life in the ghost town of world economic, social and political unrest.
Consisting of 10 tracks, Encore’s lead single “Vote For Me” is the third cut, but is a great place to start amidst the economic and political chaos in the UK as a result of Brexit, alongside the unrest caused by the recent US government shutdown. Getting right to the boiling point, echoes of 1981’s “Ghost Town” lurk in the melody. Slightly shifted, but recognizable, the effect is brilliant, showing the thread from then to now that there are the still same issues present, it is just a different time.
Then songs like album opener “Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys” funks up with an attack on racism and the blending of all people into one race. The Reggae “B.L.M.” flashes back to immigration, racism and class struggles that are still present in the world. A stroll through history, the track brings to mind why art and music have always been the voice of revolution. Aptly titled, there is also “The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum,” and for those wondering when SKA horns and skinny ties might resurface, this is it. Lightly entering the arena with piano tango and horns, Terry Gilliam’s brilliant 1995 film 12 Monkeys comes to mind. Don’t understand the correlation? Just listen.
Reminded we are living in an insane world, “Breaking Point” is the soundtrack for every bizarre thought you may have invading your psyche reading any media feed. This is before they fire “Blam Blam Fever” at the world, and based on the title, this song will surely aggravate gun lovers. Counter-punching vocals, Hall and Golding almost make it a calliope experience. Thereafter, true Spoken Word Ska glory hits with power at sexism with “The Ten Commandments.” Featuring Saffiyah Khan, wholly raw, authentic anger oozes from each lyric. Provoking thought, feminism in the 21st Century is given an anthem with this bit of musical genius.
Moving along, “Embarrassed By You” is a perky social finger pointing at individuals who choose to have no morals or ethics. This is before the syncopated rhythm of “The Life And Times Of A Man Called Depression” leading the thorazine shuffle of people who are obsessed with looking good. Reality bites, and it punctures the skin with teeth on this track. Looking good on the outside, and the inside is dying, it is a musically break with melodic essences of ready to lead, Jazz-infused parade of organs. Then, closing out the album, “We Sell Hope” allows you a chance to indulge in smooth, subtle vocals wrapped in musicality that blends ethereal Rock with SKA and a very clear message.
When approaching Encore, remember, The Specials have kept their collective ideas to themselves for a very long time. In fact, they have waited 37 years for this curtain call. That is why Cryptic Rock is leading the ovation for their new explosive album, awarding it 5 out of 5 stars.