Spiky Dread Issue 1 – Various artists
As I get older my love of reggae and dub grows exponentially and I am discovering new artists every week. As for punk however I have never been a huge fan so I was interested to see what this new punky reggae compilation had to offer.
It is the first release on Rongorongo, the new label by reggae maestro Wrongtom who has most recently produced critically acclaimed albums with Roots Manuva and Deemas J. Together with Ed Zed, he has sifted through a plethora of punk and post-punk oddities picking out their favourite approximations of dub and reggae. This collection takes in 1978-1984 and shines a light on the grey area between punk and reggae.
It all kicks off with Cool Down by The Offs an hypnotic blend of punked up funk and ska with driving brass reminiscent of afro-beat rhythms. Quickly followed by the dislocated dub of Who Killed Bruce Lee by Glaxo Babies and the heavyweight bubbler Bass Adds Bass by Family Fodder which does exactly what is says on the tin.
Punk professor Vivien Goldman penned the liner notes for the album and also appears on a cover of Bob Marley’s Do it Twice with her group Chantage. It is very catchy, mashing up brass, guitars and pans, turning the track into a completely different and unique cover.
Pleasures of the Dance by Ruts MC sees him collide with Mad Professor in an amazing experimental spacey dub classic. The baseline will be going round your head for days!
The album then takes in dubbed-out Liverpudlian dancehall from Jah Scouse, Clash-esque rock from Peter & The Test Tube Babies, and skanking R&B by Bad Brains. It also features an exclusive track Calling Captain Nemo by Return of the Panthers, which is an amazing apocalyptic dub rocker that sat unreleased for 30 years as the band split shortly after the recording session. The album is all brought to a close by the frenetic steppa Work by Bristols’s uneasy skankers Electric Guitars.
Wrongtom and Ed Zed have to be commended for doing an excellent job in selecting tracks that individually prick up the ears but also together produce a coherent album documenting a fascinating but previously overlooked era of British music. Im looking forward to Issue 2 already.
Review by 25ThC. The album is out on 17th December on Rongorongo.