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The English Beat marches on

Austin Richardson
Special to the Daily High knees ready, The English Beat tours to 8150 Thursday night for a evening of energetic ska.
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Beginning in the late ’70s, The English Beat made ska music what it is today: energetic and fun.Not quite reggae, not quite straight pop, ska embodies a rhythm and consequence all it’s own. Dave Wakeling, founding member of The English Beat, and his cohorts have collectively produced reams of music, with commercial success to boot. Wakeling’s latest incarnation of stage-mates, touring under The English Beat and creating the same ska sound, are Lynval Golding on guitar, Wayne Lothian on bass and Fernando on a “beautiful toned Selmer Mark7 Sax, just like Saxa used to play,” according to http://www.davewakeling.com.

Wakeling’s voice crosses lounge singer and crooner in a spiraling mess of whining trumpets or stellar sax riffs. The latter were compliments of Saxa on saxophone in the heyday of The English Beat, hailing from Birmingham, England. The storytelling quality of the songs is often lost at concerts, but the folks who come to see bands like The Beat already know and appreciate the lyrics. So good. It’s the wail of saxophones you imagine hearing over working-class neighborhoods in England. Glancing, indirect and lilting, sounds like those dance in the air and get into the creases like nothing else. Wakeling easily translates traditional reggae into industrial Birmingham.

Like most savants, Wakeling’s visage totally betrays his immense presence on tape. In other words, this guy’s channeling or something, because his voice doesn’t match his face. Uncanny. It’s part of what draws me to music. The really good part of the deal is that the music is catchy. It’s the music my fraternity brothers listened to … architects, engineers and scientists, mostly.British ska has never been better than with The English Beat. Bands like Madness, The Specials and The Selecter were also in the mix on the “Isles” at the time, but don’t quite have the staying power of Wakeling’s musical manifestations. The ever-changing formula, frontman Wakeling provided the necessary modulations to make the style a continued success. Benefiting from this quantum leap in music are bands like No Doubt and Sublime. Fifteen years later, solid Beat-like sounds trickle into current songs, leaving a feeling of sonic distinct deja vu.

At a time when faux-metal was ruling the airwaves with radio-friendly “catchy” bands like Quiet Riot, Def Leppard and Bon Jovi, the reggae influence of ska was just beginning to take hold. Bands like The Police gave rise to reggae-inspired tunes in the mainstream, The English Beat brought it home. By staying close to the roots of island vibes, a genre has been forever cemented in the lexicon of music.The English Beat disbanded in 1983, after three solid albums. But Wakeling has kept the sound alive. The current English Beat tours to 8150 tonight at 9.


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