Music Review: The Specials: Encore

This album has been widely promoted as the first new music from the Specials since Ghost Town in 1981. It should be noted that it’s far from the original band lineup – the three original members involved in this album include two of the ones who went on to be in Fun Boy Three and the one who went on to be in General Public – but thirty-eight years is still a pretty notable gap in a band’s musical production.

The Specials - Encore

Let’s have a listen!

Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys

Nice jazz funk intro, leading into an upbeat chanty vocal. Awesome beat, and I love the spiky accents in the background instrumentation. There’s a great funky instrumental in the middle too.

BLM

Another upbeat track with a politically charged spoken vocal over the top. It’s a little repetitive, but that actually works quite well for the storytelling that the track is trying to do. There’s also a nice atmospheric lift at the end of each verse, and a good rock instrumental in the second half, after which the funk guitar really kicks in.

Vote For Me

Great atmosphere on this one, with jazzy piano over a reggae beat. It’s exactly my kind of thing – a real classic sound that somehow manages to sound reminiscent of better modern music as well. That melancholy trumpet solo is just immense.

The Lunatics

Reworking of classic Fun Boy Three track The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum. More great piano on the intro, leading into another reggae beat and another nice trumpet solo. Good stuff.

Breaking Point

There’s a bit of a carnival feel to the background music here – it’s all very dark and jaunty. It makes everything very atmospheric and sounds as though it should be on a film soundtrack.

Blam Blam Fever

Some interesting things going on with the beat here, and it’s a bit more optimistic-sounding than the previous tracks – musically if not lyrically! I really like the juxtaposition of the different vocals, which is very classic Specials.

10 Commandments

Interesting intro, with military-band-sounding drums leading into electronic spaceship sounds, and a female spoken vocal over the top delivering to-the-point feminist lyrics. There are some great synthy atmospheric instrumental breaks as well.

Embarrassed By You

Warm, gorgeous melody, and another pleasant reggae beat. Like the rest of the tracks on the album, the lyrics are very politically critical, which makes for an interesting juxtaposition with the music.

The Life And Times (Of A Man Called Depression)

More spoken word, with verses broken up by atmospheric instrumentals with hints of ’60s lounge. I find the lyrical content of this one very powerful as it’s a topic that means a lot to me.

We Sell Hope

Gorgeous atmospheric intro that moves into a slow reggae beat. Another lovely melody, and a less angry but still important message in the lyrics. Great album ender.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one – it’s hugely refreshing to hear such nicely put together songs in 2019, and it’s important that political records are still being made in an age when there are so many things in the world that need to be addressed. Welcome back, Specials – I’d take this over the current chart fodder any day.

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