Though they ultimately skated far away from the "Two Tone" pigeon-hole that yawned for other bands of their ilk and age, the English Beat were certainly pursuing similar demons as they rose out of hometown Birmingham in 1979, with a ska-punk collision that matched social politics with sociological awareness, then turned the whole thing into a non-stop dance party.
They were promptly rewarded with the first of 13 UK hit singles scored over the next four years, but more surprising was the band's American breakthrough, where they out-performed both the period figureheads of the Specials and Madness, and ultimately hauled themselves into that rarified strata where they came to epitomise "ska" in the same way that the Police represented "reggae." It didn't matter that purists would run a mile at the thought of such a comparison. No-one ever went Top 40 by appealing to purists.
Showcasing the band's most adept maneuvers, the 15 tracks here round up all but three of the group's British hits, then pad in select highlights from the three regular albums.
From the very outset of the band's career, a swift run through "Tears Of A Clown" crackles with all the frenetic energy that characterised the band's period live show, while the deeply dubbed "Stand Down Margaret" represents one of the most potent political assaults of the entire 1980s - Margaret, of course, is British Prime Minister Thatcher and it's remarkable to think that, after just one year in office, people were already songs about how much they hated her.
Later, "I Confess" and a smart cover of Andy Williams' "Can't Get Used To Losing You" highlight just how masterfully the English Beat subverted radio-friendly pop to their own ends and, while not every track has withstood the test of time too well, enough do still thrill to encourage investigation of their entire catalog.
Also included on the CD are five full length videos for "Save It For Later", "Mirror In The Bathroom", "Too Nice To Talk To", "Drowning" and "Doors Of Your Heart". They are everything you remember them to be.