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Sunday, August 12, 2012



The English Beatles
Twist And Crawl (Capitol) :: I wish.

Live! At The US Festival: September 3, 1982 and May 28, 1983 (Shout! Factory) :: One of the benefits of my having been a professional rock critic for the past half century is that I have a well-endowed back catalogue of previously published puds to draw upon when the need arises—and the need certainly arose when I chose to review this album because something told me that I had reviewed a Beat album way back when in the days of my youth.

So I called up the comely curator of my rock critic crypt and she found it in the February 1983 issue of CREEM: America’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll Magazine, where it was published smack dab right in-between when the two above-noted concerts were performed. So how does yesterday’s Beat offering compare with today’s retrophonic latest? To find out, let’s begin first with that thirty year old record review which is presented here in its original unexpurgated Boy Howdy! form:

Special Beat Service

This is the kind of album your mother warned you about (and if she didn’t, she should have). Dull and ponderous, it shows the dance floor’s number one salt and pepper ska team over-extending itself way beyond its creative reach and coming up short in the process.

Of course, this is only my opinion—but if you don’t want to take my word for it, you may wish to heed those of a local fan I know who, after listening hopefully through both sides of Special Beat Service, came away from the Hi-Fi asking, “It’s not exactly hot, is it?” Which is exactly the point: it isn’t (and if there’s one thing a Beat album should be, it’s hot).

What helped make I Just Can’t Help It one of the all time hot rockin’ dance albums was the fact that you could get just as much enjoyment listening to it at home as you could dancing to it at the Klub-Domino. From “Mirror In The Bathroom” (with its Eno-meets-Man Ray imagery) to the snapped elevator cable acceleration of “Two Swords” to the sing-song polemics of “Stand Down Margaret,” the Beat created one hell of a debut album that didn’t let your feet or your intelligence down.

This time around, however (Round Three), the Beat have altered their previously successful musical formula by opting instead for a slightly newer (and seemingly more versatile) game plan—one that spells disappointment for both the dancers and thinkers amongst us. For although the attempt is admirable, it’s weakened the quality of the Beat’s sound sufficiently enough to the point of making it not only redundant, but ultimately unnecessary. And while I’m sure that the Beat team worked full steam at recording Special Beat Service, all I can hear are the tell-tale sounds of laziness and overindulgence scattered throughout.

The opening trilogy of “I Confess” (the soul number), “Jeannette” (the wacky continental number) and “Sorry” (the full tilt riff number) gets the album off to a promising start, but things start going downhill immediately hereafter, beginning with an Elvis Costello pastiche (“Sole Salvation”), continuing through a couple of dumb-Negro ‘rap’ numbers (“Spar Wid Me,” “Pato And Roger Ago Talk”), and coming around the clubhouse turn with a “Lost In The Supermarket” Clash melody swipe (“Sugar And Stress”).

Why no one deemed it necessary to can producer Bob Sargent and hire an impartial third party to take the original tapes, cut out all the dross, streamline the project with a lot of much-needed direction, and submit a superior product for release, is beyond me. However, just because I dropped bucks on this one is no reason for you to do the same. Do as I say, not as I do, and avoid this one like a case of Simplex II.

*** *** ***

Boy, and you thought I was tough on talent these days! But pay no attention to the dumb-Whitey behind the time curtain because the good news moral of this twofer review is: Come home Dave Wakeling, all is forgiven! That’s right, I whole-heartily recommend that you go out and buy Live! At The US Festival and then, once you do, I additionally urge you do yourself a further favor by skipping the accompanying sixteen track album and going directly to the feature-length twenty-six track video because these two concerts, both of which were filmed during the Special Beat Service romps, are proof positive that what the Beat lacked in the studio during that time they more than made up for on the stage.

Granted, the ’82 set is a bit of an aural Ambien, but the 1983 follow-up is a paint peeling presentation that’s beyond kinetic—especially Ranking Roger, ravishingly resplendent in his best Gary Numan red and black Telekon meets Dance duds, who’s so amped up on sonic speed he makes Mick Jagger look like a palsied quadriplegic in an iron lung. Weigh yourself before you watch it and, by the time they get through “Tears Of A Clown,” just see if you haven’t lost ten pounds!

Groucho Marx
Horse Feathers (Paramount) :: “A further favor? That can’t be right. Isn’t it a favor further?”

Be seeing you!

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