Well here’s something more than slightly different: an Italian rock-steady band offering their fifth album, a distinct ska interpretation of established rock/pop hit singles including Oasis’s ‘Roll with It’ and even ‘Toxic’, previously known, if at all, in its Britney Spears incarnation. There are 14 tracks here in total, and it’s the implausibility – audacity really – of the track selection that makes it all appealing in an odd sort of way. Any collection that manages to incorporate interpretations of Kraftwerk’s ‘The Model’, the Smiths’s ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ and, perhaps most bizarre of all, the title track – Neil Young’s ‘Everybody Knows this is Nowhere’ – deserves at least some attention.
There is a long tradition of reggae covers of mainstream pop/chart records, and in decades past some of these were fairly dire both musically and in terms of production. The Easy Star All Stars raised the game with thoughtful reggae interpretations of whole classic albums, starting with Dark Side of the Moon, and emphasising high production values. But this Bluebeaters album is different from both. It is not meant to be some serious ska reconstruction of seminal rock or pop moments, it’s just some well-played goodtime ska music dealing with songs that most of us will recognise in some recess of the mind or in some past memory; it doesn’t pretend to be anything more. And ‘Roll with It’ does sound pretty good after all.
The Bluebeaters: ‘Everybody Knows’ released on Record Kicks, 13th April 2015
From Jamaican-raised and Montreal-born artist Face-T comes this brand new four-track EP, independently released by Face-T himself. Under the overall guidance of Quebec-based DJ Poirier, the four tracks on this intriguing release feature rhythms and production from Dreadsquad (Poland), Scorpio B (Montreal), Poirier (Quebec) and Glasgow’s very own Mungo’s Hi-Fi.
In Face-T’s words: “Self releasing this EP makes me feel a mix of pride and excitement, similar to fatherhood…I really wanted to take my time to work on it and have fun with the process. For instance, each song was recorded in a different spot -one was at Boogat’s house, another at Poirier’s… They’re also all quite different from each other, which gave me the opportunity to push my vocal range in ways which [I] hadn’t explored before”.
The tracks are pretty diverse and the care with which they have been put together by the performer and each of the collaborators is evident. ‘True Love (Serious Time Riddim)’, with sounds and production from Scottish sound system supremos Mungo’s Hi-Fi, is an excellent opener, combining an old-time easy-feeling lilting rhythm and some splendid DJing over the top, a fine release in its own right before we get any further with the set. ‘Ready For’, produced by Poirier, is a sharper and harder sound altogether, with its call-and-response and electronic beats looking across to dubstep instead of back to mainstream reggae. ‘Dem a Thief’ is a melodic and melancholy reggae song, rendered with feeling, with precise production from Scorpio B; it would have been good to hear more of the hint of dub at the end. The EP closes with ‘Wine (Come Time Riddim)’, produced by Dreadsquad in an upbeat dancehall style, a pleasing way to finish. It’s great to come across an unexpected release like this one, off the radar of the major labels, with four strikingly different tracks that are equally full of power, melody and rhythm.