Day 303: Steel Pulse – True Democracy

28 Dec

Your House

Maybe I’m being extra ignorant right now—it wouldn’t be the first time—but I can’t take politically-charged messages in reggae music seriously.  Throughout the entirety of Steel Pulse’s True Democracy, for some reason, I found myself thinking things along the lines of “that’s cute, but I’m going to go back to ignoring the lyrics, and writing this post now.”  I guess I do that with pretty much every genre that I’m not familiar with, though.  I can really only focus on one thing at a time while writing these gems, and that one thing is definitely not going to be the politics of a record.

And this music still sounds pretty sweet, even when you ignore the messages within.  Considering that my only exposure to reggae other than The Lonely Island’s “Ras Trent,” has been one or two albums for The Swole, it’s a sound that hasn’t lost its initial novelty to me yet.  Will I like it after that wears off?  I can’t say.  But for now, I’m pretty happy.

My favorite thing about reggae is its consummate even temper.  Steel Pulse never feels the need to go on a musical tantrum by throwing out a two minute song at 400 beats per minute.  Conversely, nothing ever gets to that too-slow-to-listen-to level either.  Everything is always at this perfect, sunny, kind-of-quick tempo, with these calm vocals that make you wish you were chilling by the beach.  Maybe it’s better for me to keep ignoring the lyrics—ignorance is bliss, after all.

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One Response to “Day 303: Steel Pulse – True Democracy”

  1. Dave Chops December 29, 2011 at 7:12 am #

    Mr. Ear: I was sure that you had already heard you some Bob Marley so I did not want to insult you by throwing out some of his titles. It appears that I may have been wrong.in which case please feel free to add “Rastaman Vibration” to my list. I get why it is hard to take Rasta politics seriously. They can sound pretty pseudo-mystical prophetic. The kitsch is part of the fun. So far you have been enjoying ska, rock-steady and now reggae. Any reason not to keep on going?

    Steel Pulse – a Brit reggae band who got their start right alongside the punk bands – were very British-political but did a pretty authentic roots reggae all the same. However, they were pretty sincere (if maybe naive). Even more sincere was Mr. Marley. Think what you will about the politics, his songs and messages found audiences far from the hills of Jamaica where he grew up. In Jamaica, he was able to get the warring heads of the two political parties to shake hands at a time their supporters were killing each other (check out the video of his set at the One Love show http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nyDY1g5WvY). He was invited to play a soccer stadium show in Zimbabwe to mark the country’s independence http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnpBtRlfdjc. I was in Guinea two months ago and reggae remains huge there to this day. Bangladeshi friends of mine tell me that “Dem Belly Full (But We Hungry)” was huge in Bangladesh in the late 1970s.

    In Nigeria, Fela Kuti had a similar popularity and messages. In the world, there have been a small number of musicians who have wormed their way into the public consciousness enough to really represent something beyond music.

    Off the top of my head, the three musicians whose funerals have drawn millions of people in my lifetime have been John Lennon, Bob Marley and Fela Kuti. O.K,. maybe Elvis too.

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