Cruel Britannia

The Selecter

Snapper Music, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Ska is a musical grnea that just refuses to go away. Despite consumer apathy for the longest time, bands like Mighty Mighty Bosstones have carved out a healthy niche playing this upbeat, danceable reggae music and creating general, happy mayhem.

Add The Selecter to the list of ska bands fighting for your attention. Once known for their minor hit "Too Much Pressure" in the '80s, the band is still slugging it out, as their latest release my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Cruel Brittania proves. Chances are this might be the first time you've ever heard of The Selecter; chances also are that once you give this disc a chance, you'll be searching out other volumes from the band.

Pauline Black handles most of the lead vocals, creating almost a Gwen Stefani-like vibe to some of the songs. (Black, however, sings better than Stefani.) The remaining vocals are shared by Dave Barker and Richard Wayler, though I'll admit I'd be hard-pressed to pinpoint which one sang lead on which song. (Sometimes, detailed liner notes do help.)

The rhythms themselves are entertaining, even if the material isn't quite enough to set the speakers on fire. Tracks like "Musical Servant (1927/1998)," "Bad Dog" and the title track all are light romps through ska land. Despite its title, "Cruel Britannia" is anything but an editorial of the band's homeland, and in a way, I kind of wish the track had been a little more political.

Cruel Britannia does show a political side for the briefest of moments, on the track "Respect Yourself". (It also is the only track that uses any type of profanity; be forewarned.) The funny thing is, this is one of the best and most powerful moments on the album, allowing Black and crew to become cutting-edge. The best track on the album, interestingly enough, isn't political; "Better Must Come" is a track that has everything working in its favor, fro solid songwriting to a killer delivery.

While I recognize that ska has a certain amount of "toasting" in it ("The Viper"), I do question whether we needed a reprise of the exact same toast ("Lyrical Sniper") on the same album. However, I guess the track is harmless enough.

Admittedly, ska is an acquired taste, and The Selecter mixes enough pop sensibility into the mix to appeal to even newcomers to ska. Cruel Britannia is a disc that might not be given a fair shake by most consumers, but those that do will find themselves mildly pleased by it.

Rating: B-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Snapper Music, and is used for informational purposes only.