Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

Consumer Guide:
  User's Guide
  Grades 1990-
  Grades 1969-89
  Expert Witness
Books:
  Book Reports
  Is It Still Good to Ya?
  Going Into the City
  Consumer Guide: 90s
  Grown Up All Wrong
  Consumer Guide: 80s
  Consumer Guide: 70s
  Any Old Way You Choose It
  Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough
Xgau Sez
Writings:
  CG Columns
  Rock&Roll& [new]
  Rock&Roll& [old]
  Music Essays
  Music Reviews
  Book Reviews
  NAJP Blog
  Playboy
  Blender
  Rolling Stone
  Billboard
  Video Reviews
  Pazz & Jop
  Recyclables
  Newsprint
  Lists
  Miscellany
Bibliography
NPR
Web Site:
  Home
  Site Map
  What's New?
    RSS
Carola Dibbell:
  Carola's Website
  Archive
Venues:
  Noisey
CG Search:
Google Search:
Twitter:

The Special AKA [extended]

  • The Specials [Chrysalis, 1980] A-
  • More Specials [Chrysalis, 1980] B
  • Ghost Town/Why?/Friday Night Saturday Morning [Chrysalis EP, 1981] A
  • In the Studio [Chrysalis, 1984] B+
  • Today's Specials [Virgin, 1996] Dud

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Specials: The Specials [Chrysalis, 1980]
If it takes longer than you'd figure for these jingles to get across, that's partly because the ska they don't quite reinvent tends to skip where the reggae that succeeded it dug in, but also partly because their sound, especially their vocal sound, is just to thin to make an immediate impression (compare their "Monkey Man" to Toots's if you dare). In the end, though, there's a jaunty confidence to this music that's a lot less forced than power pop's. And there's no gainsaying their commercial messages--promote racial harmony, use contraceptives. A-

The Specials: More Specials [Chrysalis, 1980]
This time they make the ska sound their own by synthesizing its trippy beat and their own inborn vocal attenuation into a single formal principle--a platonic ideal of fun. Especially on side two, the result is so light it's almost ethereal, political consciousness and all. B

The Specials: Ghost Town/Why?/Friday Night Saturday Morning [Chrysalis EP, 1981]
Boom gone bust, everyone restless, no live music cos there's fighting on the dance floor, and the recorded music all ghostly. "Did you really want to kill me?" a victim who's proud of his black skin asks an assailant who's proud of his white. "You make me an angry man." A mild-sounding weekend reveler wishes for lipstick on his shirt instead of piss on his shoes. In short, a recipe for a riot--just in time for the end of the world. A

In the Studio [Chrysalis, 1984]
There's miraculous rhythmic progress from the polkafied chug-along of the Specials' ska to the suave Caribbean lilt here, which makes Jerry Dammers's most reclusive flights functional. But Dammers (together with mouthpiece Stan Campbell) never convinces me that the anomie he evokes so stubbornly has the public dimension that its proximity to "Bright Lights," "Racist Friend," and "Free Nelson Mandela" implies. Not often that the political songs on an album seem most down-to-earth. B+

The Specials: Today's Specials [Virgin, 1996] Dud