An Improper Touch

Sada1Manufactured bands have nearly always received a hard press from the public at large, but here at SBB we have no such qualms, provided a band has that certain spark. And the oddball outfit in question today is a veritable catherine wheel…

Put together by the raffishly-named DJ Ralph ‘Von’ Richtoven, Saada Bonaire comprised a posse of prodigiously talented Bremen reggae musicians, members of the Kurdish communist party and two razor-jawed models whose vocal style resembled a Mogadon-tinged Marlene Dietrich.Sada2

Things got off to promising start in early 1982 when king spiky dread at the controls Dennis Bovell was enlisted to produce their first (and, it would transpire, last) single You Could Be More Than You Are later that year, though things swiftly unravelled following its completion.

A catalogue of financial faux pas resulted in their contract with EMI being ripped up before the single was even released, and that pretty much spelled the end for Saada Bonaire, despite the record becoming a hit in Greece upon its eventual release in 1984.

Sada3Almost thirty years later an album’s worth of material recorded during those tense times has finally been given a rightful airing, and lo and behold, the final track finds SB sprinkling their pop petri dish with some first class wonked-up reggae – a precarious concoction of Tom Tom Club, some Grace Jones, and a dollop of the original Grange Hill theme.

Absent is the icy baritone which drove their earlier material – the fabulous Your Touch delivered instead in a woozily childlike soprano whilst slightly atonal musicbox synths seem to swirl around the bewildered vocalist like cartoon tweety birds as she delivers a litany of disillusionment with a pop world that so let her down.

As with so many of the folks we feature, the odd skanky element did encroach upon other works in the Saada Bonaire filing cabinet, but not even Mr. Bovell himself took them this far into spiky dread country – have a listen for yourselves:

Doing the Larry Grayson skank:

And just cuz:

(Dread Zed)

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Coupla Stiff Ones

SLF1Following our last ‘reggae by punk-punks’ installment, it seems only fair that the boys from Ulster finally get a look-in at the grimy windows of Skank Towers.

This may be sacrilege to some, but I must confess that I’ve never really cared for Stiff Little Fingers all that much. Despite some undeniably infectious politically-charged anthems, SLF for me belong mainly to the school of punk for beer-bellied blokes to get misty-eyed about after a few Stellas at the local (I won’t say Harps of course), and I just can’t get that excited about ‘em.

SLF2Having recently revisited their stentorian third LP, Go For It, however, I have to admit that the lads certainly knew how to pen a rockin’ reggae punk tune, and this is what brings me here today.

Despite its title, the album’s opener Roots, Radicals, Rockers and Reggae stays very much within rock territory, and it isn’t until track 4 that the barrel-chested barrage abates a little and the dready fringe is approached.

An earnest hymn to internalised anger, The Only One evokes some of the reggae outings of The Clash and The Carpettes, though eschewing the subtleties of the former in favour of big guitar choruses and a galloping pace. The result is something altogether scrappier than SLF’s usual tight riffing, and The Only One is mighty appealing for it.

SLF3Safe As Houses, while returning to the sonic comfort of almost full-blown rock-punk form, still retains the awkwardly skanking naiveté of The Only One, though it’s a better song overall. Anthems are what SLF do best, and this is no exception.

Even more interesting is the track’s lyrical theme – a kick against the acceptance of domesticity which considers both male and female perspectives on an equal plain. Probably wouldn’t catch The Stranglers doing that…

(Dread Zed)

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Last Year’s Model

model1With our recent forays into post-rock, electro-dub and afro-punk, perhaps it’s time to get back to some reggaematic versions made by good old fashioned punk-punks, and who better to kick things off than Surrey’s The Members, best known for exemplifying the sound of the suburbs with their titular hit single with a passing gesture to the mod end of post-punk..

Sound Of The Suburbs peaked just shy of the UK top ten in 1979 long after most first-wave punks turned in their bondage gear but The Members formed in ’76 and their love of reggae had been bubbling away on b-sides since their 1st Stiff release in ’78, thanks in part to JC Carrol joining singer Nicky Tesco as co-lead Member.

members2Today though we’re skipping straight to ’82 with a seemingly incongruous mix, if the marriage of rock and reggae wasn’t incongruous enough for you already (i’m guessing it isn’t if you’re a regular reader). Their cover of Kraftwerk’s upright electro-march Das Model takes on a further postmodern slant with more than a nod to Max Romeo’s roots anthem One Step Forward, rendering this multifaceted version a slick yet spiky skanker.

It may come as a surprise, or perhaps none at all, that the accompanying LP Uprhythm, Downbeat stemmed from recording sessions with the guys behind The League Unlimited Orchestra. However, whilst Martin Rushent handled production duties on half the album, today’s remodeling comes care of Rushent’s right hand man Dave Allen.

For those who don’t quite catch the Max Romeo link…

And, well, just because, I’ll leave you with Sound Of The Suburbs…


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