British punk veterans deliver on the promise made at the start of their career and revisit their root influences.
Devised back in the ’80s but never followed through to fruition, the plan to lay down reggae classics so popular among skinheads and so loved by the band themselves has finally shaped up into an album. Out of creative limbo with "The Cage" that showed there still was a lot of fire in their soul, the quartet applied a lot of gusto to (mostly) Jamaican gems to fully appropriate those and bring the record’s title to life.
Surprisingly, the most punk-spiked piece on display is the weirdly fading “Love Of The Common People”; but then, such a working-class-oriented should be close to the heart of an English lad. Compared to the source material, there’s much more vigor involved with these remakes, more sinews bulging from the sped-up skank, which also unsweetenes the likes of “Singer Man” while – complete with its opening call to arms – “Long Shot Kick De Bucket” gets an almost metal veneer, swung by Shady’s bass and Sammy Carnage’s drums. It’s quite telling that they kick off the proceedings with a cut from “The Harder They Come” – chiseling the surface of “Johnny Too Bad” with a sharp riff and giving the number a heavier edge, even though the result has a slightly cartoonish outline. Yet, of course, there’s “Big Five” to take pride of place and, hilariously, replace a certain private part with a parp.
This approach may render “Fat Man” flat, as Animal’s vocals struggle to lift the track’s weight off the ground despite the blistering support from Tommy-H’s guitar, but “Suzanne, Beware Of The Devil” rocks and rolls rough yet so infectiously that no exorcism will be needed if all the girls in the world were to take heed – and why shouldn’t they if “Black Pearl” has so catchy a groove? Waxing philosophical on “Me And My Life” is a perfect rhythm-and-blues infused finale to what the band envisioned as an initial installment in the “Loosen Up” series, so one must expect more delightful surprises from them. Blessed by Jah, their style is right on the money now.