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March 20, 2023

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The Specials
Guilty 'Til Proved Innocent! (Way Cool Music)

By: Alex Steininger

With their first studio album in fifteen years just released, one of the main bands in the 2-Tone movement are back. The Specials blazed a trail of danceable beats and infectious melodies which tore up the charts in England in the late 70's and early 80's, yet it was virtually ignored in the states. Heavily influencing the enormously popular ska-hybrid bands such as No Doubt and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, it was only a matter of time before The Specials came back and showed the U.S. what they missed the first time around.

Kicking off their comeback album with "Tears In My Beer," they begin with sounds of people clicking their glasses together, a quick siren, and then some bar jazz with piano and horns. Then the drums beat down at a rapid fire pace, kicking off the music. From there the music takes you down a soft road of danceable melodies and harmonious backing vocals, which sounds like a sober version of a pub sing-along. Strong horn lines scream at times, while other times they choice to be less noticeable, taking a back seat to the vocals and the guitar. The drums drip slowly in the background, trickling around inside the music. All the while the piano softly walks in the background, giving the song a very jazzy feeling. Helping to bring the jazz home to the listener, the horns switch between emphasizing the jazz and melting in with the background. "Fearful" invites Tim Armstrong and Lars Fredrickson from Rancid to join them on vocals. Trading off between Tim's gnarl style vocals and Neville's very rough vocal style on this track, the song soon kicks into a very up tempo, bouncy number. Strong guitar riffs churn throughout the song, almost giving it a punkish undertone, but with the highly melodic sounds formed by the whole band meshed together, all punk stylings are drowned out by very bouncy, danceable beats. The warmth of the organ springs through the song, while the bass keeps kicking out nice lines which strengthen the rhythm section to the point where it can't be stopped. Throwing in some reggae vocals, the song keeps throwing new things at the listener, which amounts to even more fun for everyone. And if the song wasn't bouncy enough, getting you dancing like crazy, the lyrics are written well and built into the song so strong that you'll be singing along with every word, especially when the chorus hits you like a ton of bricks. "No Big Deal" is very bluesy. Mixing in blues style guitar riffs with a nice upbeat, the song gives you the chance to sit back and relax while the music flows through every vein in your body, or you can get up and slowly dance along with the music. "Place In Life," on the other hand, is very up tempo and forces you to dance. Fusing a bit of the punk spirit and energy with it, the song goes for a super charged, bouncy format to get your body moving. Hard hitting drums that give off a lot of bounce, 70's style rock riffs, powerful bass lines, and vocals with a hint of roughness to them, this number will definitely move you. "Running Away" doesn't end the CD on a soft note. Rather than giving you some relaxing time, they want you to go out sweating. Led by a very delicious upbeat, the CD finishes very powerful. The music will wrap around your feet and force you to vigorously dance until you can't dance anymore. There are also three LIVE bonus tracks: "Rat Race," "Concrete Jungle," and "Gangsters." But these tracks are only added onto a limited amount of CD's, so you better act quick.

Coming back with a modern sound that reflects their work of old, The Specials take off from where they left off, but also continue on down the path that has lasted for so many years. Giving the fans something familiar, they also help diversify their music. Whether it be blues, jazz, punk, or rock, they mix it into an environment that helps re-enforce their already danceable sound. Not slowing down, or taking it any easier than before, they show their sound didn't take any dives with time. I'll give this CD a B+.

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