More Specials has lots of quality, and is almost a classic.
Nick Reynolds 2007-07-27
So how does The Specials’ second album sound, nearly 30 years after its first release?
The group had stormed the British charts in 1979 with a brash, high energy brand of pop ska. But on this album keyboardist Jerry Dammers starts to become their production mastermind. Damners' favourite musical textures are odd and particularly British: basic rhythm boxes, brass sections in full cry, and a variety of cheesy keyboards and fairground and cinema organs.
There’s a brace of very strong songs with very good tunes. Two of them sounded even better as hit singles: Stereotypes and Do Nothing. But others are good enough to be hits too: the kitchen sink drama of “I Just Can’t Stand It”, the sad tale of “Pearl’s Café”.
While the tunes are jolly, the lyrics are bleak. English life is portrayed in all its drab, suffocating despair and there’s no way out. The Poor Little Rich Girl escapes to London only to end up in porn films. The air flight of International Jet Set is a claustrophobic nightmare which ends with the passengers screaming as the plane crashes. The irony of the two versions of Enjoy Yourself is very black indeed. It’s certainly accurate; life in Britain wasn’t much fun around then. But there are times when this unremitting gloom tips over into self-parody. And the second, dub half of Stereotypes is self-indulgent, while Sock It To ‘Em JB and Holiday Fortnight are filler.
The album sounds like a first draft of the Specials finest hour. Nine months later, Dammers organised all the different elements here together into Ghost Town, one of the greatest number one singles in UK pop history. After that the group fragmented. So More Specials has lots of quality, and is almost a classic.