The Specials - More Specials - Review
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critics' view

There are some who would label the second Specials LP as Jerry Dammer’s folly, but most people, myself included, would strongly disagree. Guitarist Roddy Byers said: “He wanted to do this sort of muzak thing, put drum machines on everything, he’d been right up to that point, but I started to think he was losing it a bit.” Such are the perils of large group memberships and, sadly, the lack of consensus would cost him bandmates in the near future. Jerry, however, can take solace in the knowledge that this classic piece of finished work will outlive them all for, despite the rumblings from within the ranks, it's undeniable that the Specials were moving on splendidly a year after the debut; out were the aggressive rock guitars and in was a cosmopolitan potpourri incorporating all sorts of influences, with touchstones of the Caribbean, old cabaret, 60s soul, electronica and Arabia constantly flirting with the core Jamaican rhythms. I’d be labelling this a “masterpiece” were it not for the fluffy fun of “Enjoy Yourself” bookending the serious work in-between.

Horn-laden dub-vibes are to the fore on the magnificent “Man At C & A” which stabs-out at the crazies who would lead us to Armageddon: “The Mickey Mouse badge told the Ayatollah at his feet, You drink your oil you schmuck, we'll eat our heads of wheat.” The bouncy-ska of “Hey, Little Rich Girl” is next, as Terry shakes his head at the okay-yah girl gone bad (and the sleazy fat cats): “at your Dad’s office party all the movies were blue, caused him so much heartache, coz the screen star was you”; kudos to special guest, Lee Thompson of Madness, who blows some mean sax here. The mighty “Do Nothing” is next and stands as contender for the song of the year, with a walk-n-skank bounce that comes courtesy of Horace Panter’s mighty bass and John Bradbury’s amazingly instinctive stick taps. Existential reggae, who knew? Ever the human-condition observer, Terry continues Lynval’s “Do Nothing” theme on “Pearl’s Café”, an update of the old ‘Eleanor Rigby’ lonely spinster theme: “It’s all a load of bollocks” sings our fading gal. Poor Pearl. This pretty much marks the end of the ska and we’re only 5 tracks in.

A stupendous soul cover of “Sock It To ‘Em JB” (Rex Garvin and The Mighty Cravers, 1966) closes side one with incredible vitality; JB could just as easily stand as a tribute to John Bradbury as James Bond, for it was the drummer who brought this one to the table and his gun-fire playing is pure dancefloor dynamite. Side two opens with a 2-part version of “Stereotype”; firstly featuring vocals and lyrics by Terry, then secondly by Neville. The message is the same all the way on the dub-heavy track, pointing a finger at the vacuous drink-driving loser who gets drunk and spreads VD: “He's just a sterotype, he drinks his age in pints, he has girls every night, he doesn't really exist.” The gloom is broken by “Holiday Fortnight”, a delightful carnival trip which temporarily transports us to Port of Spain. To a man, the players are fantastic on Roddy’s tune, with special mentions for Dick Cuthell and Rico Rodriguez on the brass. The excellent “International Jet Set” serves as one last creepy track for the road as Terry conveys his alienation at the mad world in which he finds himself as a “pop star”. Set in an aeroplane, he has time to contemplate… “the businessmen are having fun … I’ve lost touch with reality, they all seem so absurd to me … but is rudely awakened as news comes across from the PA that the engines have failed and that the plane is to make a crash landing. Displaying fine black humour, the album comes to a close with a beaten and bedraggled reprise of “enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think”…

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