Release Date: October 2, 2015
When you think of Two Tone Ska there are two names that immediately spring to mind. The first is The Specials while the second is The Selecter. Seeing that the latter was putting out a new record I immediately jumped to get my hands on Subculture as quickly as possible. If you have followed The Selecter you will know that there are two factions of the band that exist now. This is the band fronted by original vocalists Pauline Black and Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson with an entirely new cast. Pauline Black is really the driving force behind the band now and her legendary status as a ska and social icon is further entrenched by her work here.
Subculture opens with one of the catchiest ska songs ever made “Box Fresh”. It’s a four minute pop perfect track with a chorus that sticks in your head like superglue. I can’t how many times I’ve found myself signing under my breath “A box fresh start, a neeeeeeeew beginning, yeah”. After Pauline’s voice sets stage Gaps comes in “It Never Worked Out” and shows why The Selecter does benefit from having two vocalists with his calypso voice. Throughout the record the two of them trade back and forth from track to track and the record benefits from the variety they bring.
As always The Selecter has something to say. Subculture is mostly positive. Mostly the subject matter is social injustice, be it romantic or otherwise. There is an underlying anger seething under the surface, but for the most part The Selecter try to stay positive while presenting difficult messages. “Walk the Walk” is an interesting track as it lifts its horn riff from “A Message to You Rudy” almost completely while singing about walking the walking and fighting for your rights. I’m not sure if the combination is intentional, but it seems to me to be a shot at former Selecter Neol Davies especially with the lyric “If you want to win the fight, make up your own rules, if you want to win the fight, make sure you don’t lose, walk the walk and talk the talk”.
Musically, Subculture follows the Two Tone playbook to the letter. It’s a combination of strong horn playing, guitars that rarely leave the backbeat, bass walking all over the place, Jamaican drumming and splashes of organ everywhere. The only modern edge to the record is some occasional synth splashes. There is a Middle Eastern influence that shows from time to time (see “Babble On” for an example) but mostly this record is exactly what you would expect/want from these Two Tone legends.
If you are a fan of The Selecter’s prior work Subculture will be a great addition to your collection. If you are someone who came to know ska music by it’s punkified third wave, this record will be a great introduction to the two tone style. Either way you will not be disappointed.
Reviewed by: Rob 1340