The Beat were fellow travellers to The Specials and Madness in the Two Tone movement and recorded three excellent albums before disbanding. The majority of the songs from those albums are included on this two-CD/36-song set, including all of their hits. More potent and enjoyable is the dub-heavy Stand Down, Margaret, whose title is indeed a plea with then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to resign.
Record Collector, April 08
“Double-disc set does just what it say”
You have to admire The Beat’s bottle: there can’t have been too many bands that launched their career by covering a music deity’s most famous song. That’s exactly what the Birmingham six-piece did when they hit the charts in 1980 with Smokey Robinsons Tears Of A Clown. To their eternal credit, it was a completely different take on the classic and featured all the elements that ensured their success for the next few years. Although they were essentially a ska band they had a post-punk twist. The guitar work of Dave Wakeling and Andy Cox combined to predate a sound often used by the Bunnymen and New Order. Added to the contrasting styles of Wakeling’s beautiful soul voice and co-vocalist Ranking Rogers rich reggae toasting style, then topped off with the saxophone wail of original ska musician Saxa, the result was unique and very pleasing. As well as demonstrating a huge pop sensibility on songs such as the haunting, narcissistic nightmare of Mirror In The Bathroom, there was strong political comment such as the no-nonsense Stand Down Margaret. Now let’s shut up and dance!
Q, April 08
“37 slices of 80’s agit-ska from Birmingham”
Featuring skin-tight ska rhythms, Dave Wakeling’s dolorous vocals and Saxa’s dreamy saxophone, The Beat arrived with a string of hit singles at the peak of 2-Tone in 1980. This collection corrals much of their three ambles onto two discs, charting a swift progression from early angst-ridden ska such as Mirror In The Bathroom to lovelorn soul on ‘82’s Special Beat Service3, the third album that proved their full-stop. This places their gifts in context: another great early- 80’s Midlands band to be ranked alongside, not beneath The Specials.
Uncut, April 08
A smart reminder of how much fun The Beat were on a good day. And they had quite a few of those, cranking out a steak of chart hits (“Tears Of A Clown”, “Can’t Get Used To Losing You”) with almost Madness-like regularity.
The Word, May 08
Fourth and most skinny trousered of the 2Tone bands, The Beat had a line in sharp and blissful ska-pop singles, a 48-year-old Jamaican saxophonist called Saxa and an MC, Ranking Roger, who would never be big with Jonathan Ross. This double CD contains nearly everything they recorded and it all still sparkles. Best Friend remains gorgeous sunlit summer pop, Too Nice To Talk To itches with teenage energy, Mirror In The Bathroom is one of the most wonderful and anxious top ten hits ever (in 1980 we didn’t even know what drugs were). The Thatcher-bashing now feels as antique as a madrigal but who else could sing so acutely about the tribulations of the Youth without turning into Rik from The Young Ones.