A band by any other Beat, is still The Beat. Known in Australia as The British Beat, in North America as The English Beat, and in their own territory as simply, The Beat, this late 70s – early 80s ska revival group released some unforgettable earworms throughout their tenure, a few of which would be focal points to classic cult films. I mentioned earlier (four or so years ago) about their inclusion in the 1997 film Gross Pointe Blank, but it was 1982’s Rotating Head (instrumental version titled March of the Swivelheads) by means of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off that introduced me with this prolific and continent-jumping band. The music? Well, it still holds up, and shows no signs of fading away into irrelevant obscurity. The (insert location here) Beat’s discography is relatively small, and definitely work seeking out.
Like so many kids I grew up with, Yello was first introduced via the 1986 John Hughes classic, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It’s difficult, at least for me, to imagine Ferris gallivanting around scenic Chicago without the “chicka-chicka” pounding from Yello’s Oh Yeah. 1988’s release, Flag finds Dieter Meier and Boris Blank adopting their heavily produced, dance-tronic, belly-rubbin’, baby-making electro structure from their previous five albums (only two of which I have). So, nothing new, but still quality ear juice.
It’s difficult to shove Yello into one category. Many of you will say categories are for suckers and fans of Greatest Hits albums anyway, but when describing any band to someone who has never heard of them, it’s handy to be at least somewhat accurate with the broad, descriptive brush strokes. Here’s how I would describe them (probably incorrectly): If industrial and early 80s synth-pop had an illegitimate baby-child that grew up loving heavy percussion and smoked way too many cigarettes, but whose knowledge is endless and spans international waters, this magnificent beast would give out the best candy on Halloween and would go by the handle of Yello. Yeah, that’s close enough. Personally, I prefer 1983’s You Gotta Say Yes to Another Excess, but any Yello is good Yello as far as I’m concerned.
The year was 1986, and it was about (damn) time that Ferris Bueller took (another) day off. Kicking off the alluring, and jaw-dropping, sex-rocket album, Flaunt It, Love Missile F1-11 owns the distinct pleasure of (indefinitely) changing the unforeseen boundaries of music’s indefinable landscape. Nothing before had been conceived, and few since carry the weight of changing one’s perspective on “what music can be” in a simple four minute and 48 second electro-mind-grinding lullaby.
If you’ve seen the John Hughes masterpiece, you’ve heard Love Missile F1-11. Kicking off with the (often) repeated phrase, “I wanna be a star!” this synth-happy, loop-clinging, guitar wailing love tune does (very) little to disguise its overtly sexual (over/under) tones. The line, “Shoot it up!” does not refer to any form of dragon chasing. “There goes my love, rocket-red.” You get the idea.
Sampling Mozart, gunshots, (what sounds like) ray guns, and perfectly timed explosions, Love Missile F1-11 is a seizure –inducing wall of sound that forces you (the listener) to (mentally) salivate and knock over old ladies who may stand in the way of another breathtaking fix.
Sigue Sigue Sputnik is certainly NOT for everyone, and prodigiousness wouldn’t have it any other way.
Why the works of The English Beat weren’t more prevalent during the Ska resurgence in the mid-to-late 90’s in rural Wisconsin is far beyond my feeble comprehension. With unknown bands like Skapone, The Skolars and The Parka Kings gaining constant play among me and my friends, the far superior talents of 6 early 80’s upbeat Ska professionals went ignorantly overlooked. Saxa, Andy Cox, David Steele, Everette Moreton, Ranking Roger and Dave Wakeling… I am forever sorry for the immature neglect I bestowed upon your great, but limited works.
This album starts off with an atom bomb (or a whisky shot to your ear’s liver) with the now famous (thanks to its picture perfect usage in 1997’s Grosse Pointe Blank) Mirror in the Bathroom. Catchy, upbeat Ska that makes any listener want to skank like an adolescent fool, this track, and much of this, their first album, digs a deep groove of head-bobbing, jive-swaying bowl-full-of-happy-time moments that don’t seem to get old some 33 years after their initial release.
Highlighted moments throughout this album will bounce around your head like a 22 caliber bullet. With the above mentioned Mirror in the Bathroom, Twist & Crawl and the side 1 ending, Click Click, I Just Can’t Stop It could easily work as the band’s greatest hits album save for the regrettably missing March of the Swivel Heads made famous for its use in the 1986 John Hughes classic, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Ska, as a whole, understandably, isn’t a genre for the masses. But I challenge any willing reader to embark on this creative milestone of positive grooves and NOT dig just about every Surf-Rock influenced, Rastafarian-vibe, bass-heavy, foot-tapping, good-ol’-fashioned-merry music found in this 1980 Sire Records release.
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Man, The English Beat make me wish I had a swimming pool to wade in and drink my pitcher of Mojitos. I’d settle for the kiddie pool in which we used to wash my Grandparent’s dog. There’s just something about this music that touches upon the “fun in the sun” pleasure spots. Do you know where your “fun in the sun” pleasure spots are? Go ahead. Touch them. You’ll thank me.
This album is pretty tightly produced, and is overall pretty slick. It’s evident these guys practiced a few times before recording this album, which, makes sense if you think about it. The only criticism I would offer is that the majority of the songs sound alike. That can be a good and a bad thing. If you’re into strawberry ice cream with hot fudge and gummy bear sprinkles, then you’ll likely want all the strawberry ice cream with hot fudge and gummy bear sprinkles you can get. This album, not unlike strawberry ice cream with hot fudge and gummy bear sprinkles is a specific palate, but oh, boy, what a palate it is!
On the back cover is a picture of a short skirt-wearing chick holding an album while standing next to a New Age looking turntable. The album in her hands? Why, I Just Can’t Stop It, of course. She’s got a smile on her face, which implies that the music from this album will cause you to smile as well! Some subtle marketing can go a long way.
So, ok, bottom line: GET THIS ALBUM!
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