By Holywell Street 4th February 2019
The Specials’ first official album since 1980 is a rich collection that covers funk, ska and reggae with good bit of energy.
Though just three of the original band are left, the fitting title ‘Encore’ certainly has hit the headlines with Terry Hall, Lynval Golding and Horace Panter—the album hits many of the group’s original vibe. I like how the piece is talking about mental health, race relations and political disharmony with intelligence and integrity. The two-tone sound is still in there which is what I’d hoped for and kinda expected. There’s a few songs that are covers including an Eddy Grant number but this politically impeccable.
Elsewhere, 10 Commandments (a feminist riff on a sexist Prince Buster song) is delivered with biting anger, here voiced by guest vocalist Saffiyah Khan, who is widely known for facing down the EDL at a Birmingham protest in 2017. Personally I’m loving the fact the activist has been given this platform. The two iconic photos of her at this rally – facing down the EDL bloke and the other of her getting lead away with the Specials t-shirt showing are deservedly seen as legendary.
The track is a sprawling spoken word reggae jam akin to their global hit Ghost Town and its follow up The Boiler, a harrowing rape narrative fronted by Rhoda Dakar. Though the track updates the sound with intellectual honesty, “Is that what it takes to impress a bloke whose brain is made up of curvy size zero”
One of the reasons that the Specials have been through so many levels most notably the Special AKA, is the format of the band. Conceptually, they are a musical collective, they have combinations sometimes the Special AKA didn’t come over as a band but more a mass group of likeminded people.
The band certainly wear their influences on their sleeves. The track The Life and Times of a Man (Called Depression) is very close to home for a lot of people these days and it certainly is for Terry Hall.
While the album is excellent, it really promotes them as a live act. I didn’t know what to think of the live tracks on there, maybe being unnecessary add-on’s but one imagines a Specials gig in 2019 is just as affecting as it was 40 years ago. Or as Hall puts it, just as “horribly relevant”.
It’s a 10/10 from us.