By DAN MACINTOSH
The English Beat featuring Dave Wakeling is back with its fourth album, and first full-length since 1982, called Here We Go Love. Over such a long time span many lesser bands have released multiple forgettable albums. Yet, front man Wakeling remained sonically mum.
Sure, Wakeling and Ranking Roger (who has his own separate version of The Beat going simultaneously) joined together as General Public right after The English Beat’s demise, but that offshoot just wasn’t as good as the original English Beat. The English Beat’s perfect mixture of reggae, ska and classic soul brought out the best in Wakeling’s singing and songwriting, whereas General Public came off – as Elvis Costello might put it – as “A fine idea at the time/Now it’s a brilliant mistake.”
Wakeling’s New and Noteworthy Songs
All the while, though, Wakeling continued to tour playing favorite old The English Beat songs. Thankfully, with Here We Go Love, Wakeling now has some new, worthy songs to add to setlists.
One thing that’s changed in the over 30 years since Wakeling first mixed political commentary into his band’s sounds, is today’s newfound openness to salty language in lyrics. The album’s title track, which sounds to be a rant about Donald Trump (or those just like him) is filled with multiple f-bombs, for instance.
Musically, this album is mostly filled with loud, fast — or both loud and fast — tunes. These range from the brass-infused soul of “How Can You Stand There?,” to the straight-out reggae driving “Redemption Time” to guitar rock of “You’re Stuck.”
Songwriter Wakeling and ‘Save It For Later’
Wakeling, who created one of pop’s most memorable melodies with The English Beat’s “Save It for Later,” proves himself again with the quietly beautiful “Never Die,” which is sweetly sad with its lovely string section. “Never Die” is a rare instance of sonic melancholy, though, as Here We Go Love is – despite the times – a surprisingly consistently happy full-length. It’s as though Wakeling had been some kind of caged animal, just waiting for the chance to spring new music on all of us. And he doesn’t waste the chance.
Joy Comes to Mind with ‘Here We Go Love’
Here We Go Love is an album where the descriptor ‘joy’ comes to mind again and again. Maybe Wakeling has taken a page out of Bryan Ferry’s lyrical playbook. “Dance away the heartache/Dance away the tears.” These are dark days, it’s true. However, music is an undeniable source of joy – sometimes never more so than during tough times.
The English Beat could have easily rested on its laurels, and just rode the ’80s nostalgia circuit for that easy money. They couldn’t and shouldn’t, though. Here We Go Love offers solid proof of Wakeling’s undiminished songwriting skills. Here we go, yes, but let’s not stop for so long again.