A Special one adjusts his wig and nails the issues of the day with an off-beat gavel.
It’s all about a concept for this staple of the Blighty ska scene: first, he announced his comeback as The Rude Boy in 2004, and now the singer has dusted off a persona that was a toast of THE SPECIALS’ “Rude Boys Outa Jail” single back in 1980 – and there’s a reason for such a move. The Honorable Roughneck is a perfect fit for our judgmental, mad times – hence ire and fire of a follow-up to 2014’s “Ska Crazy!” and a retrofuturistic resurrection of FUN BOY THREE’s “Lunatics” in a new context. Sonically, it’s a joyride, though, from the title track on, which only increases the satire hurled toward hypocrites and other morally corrupt citizens of the world.
Some of Staple’s diatribes are rather direct – “Politician Man” and “Crime Don’t Pay” pull no punches in their bounce – so it may be difficult to see the real nature of his covers choices, yet Neville’s soft, if infectious, takes on Jimmy Soul’s “Be Happy” and Peter Tosh’s “Maga Dog” add subtle insult to the injury, while assorted dub mixes at the CD’s end deepen the righteous’ sweet pain. Alleviating the brass-abetted assault on a few numbers is the tinkling of a barrelhouse piano, one making “Gang Fever” cinematically hilarious, whereas “Bangarang” marries reggae to pub rock to produce a root beer sort of fizz. Not for nothing, the album’s main course has “Enjoy Yourself Ragtime” for a finale, with a former Jayhawk Jessy Greene’s violin spicing the juke joint classic.
It’s that easy skanking combined with the lyrics’ occasional profundity, as stressed by the veteran’s booming bark, that makes this record special. Here’s one verdict worth hearing.