Angelic Upstarts

Still from the Heart

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Take one look at the song titles -- "Flames of Brixton," "Action Man," "Here Comes Trouble" -- and you'd expect Angelic Upstarts' 1983 effort Still from the Heart to crackle with the same punkish, Oi! energy that typified its initial releases. The streak of protest is still strong, to be sure. But by this point, the Upstarts had embraced a larger sonic palette. Tentative new wave influences, inflections of dub, and expressive horn sections are all over the album, which often make it sound like Joe Jackson's 1980s pop experiments or the dark social pop of Matt Johnson and The The. These tendencies definitely date Still from the Heart at points. However, its fiery heart definitely still burns, as the rousing, Clash-style chorus to "Never Say Die" proves. In the thoughtful "Soldier," the Upstarts personify one British infantryman caught up in Ireland's never-ending civil war. He's bound by duty, but misses his kin. And yet, in the end, he makes the ultimate sacrifice for "those who call him murderer not friend." It's seven minutes of martial snare drums and surging, foreboding keyboard rhythm, and there isn't a wiry punk power chord for miles. But "Soldier" might be most effective thing on the record, proving that the real power of protest music comes not from patch chords and guitar picks, but meaningful social comment and rousing storytelling. [The 1994 Dojo reissue includes the bonus track "Different Strokes" in regular and dub versions; Captain Oi!'s comprehensive 2003 version features the same tracks, as well as demos of "Action Man," "Cry Wolf," "Soldier," and "Gonna be a Star."]

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