The English Beat / Dave Wakeling

Here We Go Love

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In the 2000s, after a long layoff from music, Dave Wakeling jumped back into the life of a touring musician, and in the interest of giving the audience what they want, he assembled a new band under the banner of his successful '80s ska group the Beat (or, if you lived in North America, the English Beat). After more than a decade of steady live work, Wakeling's edition of the English Beat (there's another touring the U.K. led by toaster Ranking Roger) has finally gotten around to making a new album, and 2018's Here We Go Love has Wakeling's musical signatures all over it. Trouble is, it doesn't sound all that much like the Beat. The Beat had a sound that set them apart from the other ska revivalists who rose to fame in the late '70s and early '80s; their rhythm section generated a tense pulse that was taut and efficient (bassist David Steele and drummer Everett Morton were peerless), and while the melodies had a distinct pop edge, the sharp report of the guitars and the cry of the saxophone gave their best work an edgy tine that embraced joy and tension at the same time. Nothing on Here We Go Love replicates the fierce attack of the Beat's 1980 masterpiece I Just Can't Stop It; instead, this more closely resembles the more pop-oriented tenor of the group's 1982 swan song Special Beat Service, and even more so, the eclectic blend of pop, R&B, and Jamaican rhythms that informed his post-Beat project General Public. Since Wakeling is the only original member of the Beat in this group, that shouldn't come a shock, and the truth is, Here We Go Love is a very good Dave Wakeling album. If he's only so interested in writing ska tunes these days ("Dem Call It Ska," the song with the strongest old-school Jamaican vibe, is perhaps the disc's weakest track), he can reliably come up with pop hooks and dance-friendly rhythms, and his command of songs that nod to vintage R&B is impressive. Wakeling's voice is as strong and expressive as it was in the '80s, and "How Can You Stand There," "If Killing Worked," and the foul-mouthed title tune show he's still a pithy lyricist with a sharp point of view. In short, Here We Go Love is convincing evidence that Wakeling still has plenty of good music left in him, and he leads a band that's tight, versatile, and full of joy and fire. Just don't expect this to remind you of the Beat's classic albums of the '80s and you'll be fine.

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