Jah Wobble's Invaders of the Heart / Jah Wobble

The Usual Suspects

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We've come to expect the unexpected from musical chameleon Jah Wobble and his longstanding band of intrepids, Invaders of the Heart. On its face, The Usual Suspects reads like an extended overview of his career with some choice covers tossed in. And it is, but that's far from the whole story. It opens with the set's single, a revisioning of "Public Image," from that band's 1978 debut album. It goes without saying that the vocal is nowhere near as arresting as John Lydon's, but it doesn't need to be in this context. Wobble's bassline doesn't plod here, it thumps, roils, and cooks. The vocal is an afterthought. It's over all too quickly before melting into a brief, spacy, junglist take on "Socialist," which morphs into the complete fusion craziness of "Doctrine of Dub & Bass." In less than eight minutes, this album has already traversed a musical galaxy. Wobble's bass enters into its signature single-note pulse to slow things down in a lovely reading of "Theme from Midnight Cowboy" with synth strings, a sparkling piano, and an odd, popping snare. It precedes a soulful, dreadwise read of Dan Penn's "You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No)" with the inimitable Aurora Dawn fronting the band. And so it goes. 23 tracks are spread over two discs with sonic shapeshifting the M.O. throughout. Wobble and company use his musical history as a touchstone to explore genres and improvisational subtleties that sometimes create outright makeovers. "Visions of You" doesn't get messed with much -- other than the fact that Sinead O'Connor's gorgeous vocal is replaced by a chorale and strings, but PiL's "Fodderstompf" is transformed from album afterthought to whomping acid-funk jam. The theme from "Get Carter" melds soul-jazz cool with 21st century groove. And only Wobble would have the stones to revisit "How Much Are They?" -- a track he originally cut with Can's Jaki Liebezeit and Holger Czukay -- by way of Queen's canny, campy "Another One Bites the Dust" rhythm vamp before going full-on disco. Weirder still is his blazing instrumental cover of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain," built from the bassline down. Wobble's Invaders check out on the live tip. First is "Poptones," with the Cockney bassist speaking the lyrics with abject conviction amid circular layers of guitar and synth that underscore his unmistakable bassline. Then they deliver an 11-plus-minute, souled-out, rocksteady jam on the classic Harry J. All Stars' 1969 reggae groover "Liquidator" (that borrows a vamp from of Alton Ellis' 1966 smash "Girl I've Got a Date") with a comedic story and band introduction. More than two hours after it begins, the listener is exhausted; not because this journey is tiresome, but because it's so dizzying and dazzling. Wobble has been on a creative tear for decades with a few significant breaks. The Usual Suspects reveals its scope with sophistication, savvy, and humor. Essential.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:26
2 1:58
3 3:22
4 3:16
5 9:22
6 5:44
7 4:44
8 7:32
9 3:57
10 6:06
11 2:41
12 1:14
13 5:31
14 6:19
blue highlight denotes track pick