Combining ska, reggae and rock steady with punk spirit, The Specials is a band that I remember listening to in elementary school; this was when my sister and I wanted to be just like our older, much “cooler” brothers and begged them to make us a ska mix of our own – this indeed included a couple of tracks by the iconic group.
The Specials, who helped introduce the 2-Tone sound, enjoyed great success in the late 1970s and early ‘80s and can be named as one of the most influential bands of all time. On February 1st, The Specials will be releasing Encore, their first new album in 37 years. The 10-track album was produced by founding member Terry Hall, Lynval Golding and Horace Panter, alongside musician Torp Larsen and will be the first time Hall, Golding and Panter have recorded new material together since the band’s top single Ghost Town (1981).
Although Specials fans will most likely expect Encore to pick up exactly where the band left off 37 years ago in 1980, this is a fair warning to all listeners that they will not be stepping back in time. The album presents us with a modern twist, especially in terms of both sound and theme; a reflection of the spirit of the age, but with a dark and gloomy tone. One can perhaps see it as an intimate portrait of the world today; touching upon crucial topics, such as racism, mental health, women’s rights and gun crime in America. The underlying question that the band is ultimately asking us is, “why haven’t things changed for the better?”
Although the band will always use ska as a layer to their sound,Encore is unique in comparison to past albums, because it includes a fusion of modern influences, such as rock, pop, reggae, blues, soul and funk. For more traditional fans, there is a revised version of The Valentines’ Blam Blam Fever, which alludes to old influences and recalls Too Hot in its arrangement.
There is no doubt that Encore will stir up controversy, especially to original fans, but what I like most about this album is that it truly opens our eyes to the immorality of society and the fact that we are in desperate need of positive change. The well-crafted lyrics and melodies are a tribute to this – both haunting and honest.
In addition to the band’s new album, The Specials have also announced a UK tour for 2019.