FEATURE: Encore Une Fois: Even MORE Specials: Celebrating The Return of the Ska Legends – The Ultimate Playlist




Encore Une Fois: Even MORE Specials


IN THIS PHOTO: The Specials/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press 

Celebrating The Return of the Ska Legends – The Ultimate Playlist


FEW of us were expecting any material from The Specials...

anytime soon but, as a Christmas treat, they have brought us a right old gem! Vote for Me is out there and, as the title implies, it a song that reflects on modern politics and whether we should trust and believe or leaders. Whether aimed at our P.M. or the U.S. President; it carried weight and can be applied directly to so many world leaders. I notice little nods to their most-famous song, Ghost Town, in bits of the compositions. The 2 Tone/Ska band, since their debut album (The Specials) in 1979. Although a lot of the recording sessions were fraught with tension and division, the band would be the first to admit that the results, in spite of that, are pretty awesome. It is great they are back together because, as much as anything, there are very few in the mainstream who sound like them. The political music we have received this year have been from the likes of IDLES and artists with snarl and a distinct sound. I feel a blend of pertinent and observational lyrics, coupled with rousing and colourful sounds, brings the messages to life and makes the music more accessible. There is an album, Encore, due for 1st February and, if Vote for Me is anything to go by, it is clear the same Specials are present and correct – they have not dropped a step since their last album, Conquering Ruler (2001).


  IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

It seems like every album from them documents the times in which we all live and speaks much more truthfully and loudly than any politician. Having listened to an interview Horace Panter (bass) gave to BBC Radio 6 Music’s Georgie Rogers; it seems like everyone is facing in the same direction – his words… – and there is a lot more harmony in the ranks. The years away have not dented their magic and unity and you can just tell the approaching album, already, will be one of 2019’s very best. Everyone has their own favourite song from The Specials but, to me, Ghost Town will always be the one. I cannot get over the chills and scariness from the song; the catchiness of the chorus and the message being conveyed. Documenting violence and rage in London; it seems like there is even more truth and relevance to be found now – given the capital’s spate of knife-related murders and gang troubles. The Specials, back in 1981, were keen to document the troubles happening around them and what a state the country was in. One would like to think the nation has strengthened and cleaned itself up in the ensuing thirty-seven years but, alas, we are in a right old state! It is great to have the old masters back and, maybe, they can help make sense of things.

I will end this piece with an ultimate Specials playlist that collates all their best songs together but, before then, I return to my point about a great return. I have spoken about artists who get back onto the stage and record new music after such a long time and wonder whether it always pays off. This year has seen The Streets, Dido and The Zutons either release new material or tour dates following quite a hefty gap. The results so far have been a bit mixed and it can always be a bit sad preserving this memory of a much-loved artist and having that shattered when you hear their new work. Even though there has been one single from The Specials, you can hear they are in top form and have not disappointed. It is not a case of a band reforming for nostalgia or to relaunch a big song like Gangsters or Too Much Too Young. Their 1979 debut ranks alongside the very finest albums of the decade and, with songs like A Message to You Rudy sitting alongside originals such as Nite Klub; it is an exceptional offering that has stood the test of time. Maybe it is hard to integrate 2 Tone or Ska into the mainstream but I wonder why we do not hear more of it. Bands, when they are being political or serious, tend to match them with the music.


 IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

Is there a fear a rather jolly and dance-worthy composition would undermine the nature of the song?! I feel a contrast like that actually strengthens a song and, as The Specials have proven, the music lasts and is a lot more enduring. So many artists have avoided politics and social concerns in a year when we are as divided and strained as any time of this generation. Things are going to the wall and the trust we put in politicians is dwindling. Even though The Specials have a few grey hairs and line; they are proving they can match the might and memorability of the modern-day politically-minded artists and that makes me relieved. I was worried a return might see them weaken or produce something sub-par but any fears have been allayed. Vote for Me is a proper stomper and cutting song that has the trademark tones of The Specials. Let us end things there and rejoice in the knowledge that the boys are back. I hope it is a permanent return and they continue to make more albums. Keep your eyes out for Encore in 2019 and let’s see what else they have up their sleeves! Often, one is disappointed by legends making a return to music but the first signs of The Specials 2.0 are very positive indeed! We need them more than ever right now – in this muddy and divided country – and, with moods starting to drop and people losing a lot of hope; here is a united and spectacular force that...


IMAGE CREDIT: The Specials/Getty Images 

ARE bringing back the bliss.