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The Specials | Encore • The Beat feat. Ranking Roger | Public Confidential

Two reconstituted 2-Tone titans return to action with new studio albums.


It may not be the dawning of a new era. But it is a reasonably enjoyable facsimile of an old one. Reconstituted 2-Tone titans The Specials and The Beat have both returned with new albums this week. And while neither will prompt you to dig out your porkpie hat and skinny tie, at least one marks a much-welcome, much-needed return. That would be The SpecialsEncore, the band’s first recordings with original vocalist Terry Hall since 1981’s Ghost Town. This 10-song comeback — which also features original guitarist Lynval Golding and bassist Horace Panter — more or less picks up where that darkly political track left off. Which is to say: Hall and co. take aim at Brexit, Black Lives Matter, gun fever, political hypocrisy, mental health and other topical topics over tastefully arranged, deliberately paced tracks (including covers of The EqualsBlack Skinned Blue Eyed Boys and Fun Boy 3’s Lunatics) that hit the sweet spot between ska, reggae, dub, soul, funk, disco and more. Admittedly, if you’re looking for something with the herky-jerk skank of classics like Gangsters, Nike Klub and Monkey Man, you won’t find it — except on the raucous bonus live disc recorded at Paris’s Bataclan. But if a throwback throwdown is truly what you’re after, you might appreciate Public Confidential, the latest from vocalist Ranking Roger’s incarnation of The Beat (as opposed to singer-guitarist Dave Wakeling’s competing version). Although Roger is the only original member in the ranks here, the band — which also includes his son Ranking Junior — basically serves as a tribute to the original version, joyfully and unabashedly mining the sound, style, speed, sax lines and even specific rhythms and melodies of oldies like Mirror In The Bathroom, Hands Off…She’s Mine and Two Swords. Honestly, it just made me want to listen to the old albums, but as always, your mileage may vary. Either way, enjoy yourself. It’s later than you think.

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