The Specials

Guilty 'Til Proved Innocent!

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If they ever made a movie called "The British 2-Tone Band that Wouldn't Die," it would star the Specials. Almost twenty years after helping to usher in the first of several post-punk ska revivals, and after numerous lineup changes and hiatuses, the Specials are still out there preaching the same gospel. It's a rewrite of the ska sound of 1960s Jamaica, with heavy doses of punk and the British music-hall tradition. So if you're suspecting that the sound isn't exactly fresh, you're right -- if 2-Tone was something of a rehash when the Specials debuted in 1979, imagine how dated a revival of a rehash sounds. But just because it's dated doesn't mean it's no fun -- "Call Me Names" and "No Big Deal" are just as charming as anything the band wrote under the leadership of Jerry Dammers back in the day, and "Running Away" is a fun rewrite of "Monkey Man," the Toots Hibbert classic. There are three hidden tracks at the end of the disc: all are live versions of old Specials chestnuts ("Rat Race," "Concrete Jungle" and "Gangsters"). The problem is, those live versions just remind you of how much fresher this stuff sounded twenty years ago.

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