Sonntag, 2. Januar 2022

The International Beat - The Hitting Line Crosses The Border (1991)

The mid-80s were an interesting time for ska music. The third wave revolution, in the form of US inspired ska punk was still the best part of a decade away but popular interest in two tone in Britian was dwindling and as boots and braces were swapped for shoulder pads punk was by no means dead, but somewhat subdued. The Clash’s 1980 triple release “Sandinista” had brought world music to the masses, and the band huge acclaim, and as the decade went on more and more punk and ska musicians began to experiment with their sound, often forsaking fierce guitars and driving drum beats for a more mellow, smoother sound. The members of Birmingham’s The Beat, having gained large-scale popularity towards they end of two tone’s mainstream hay-day playing a soulful brand of ska and reggae led by the saxophone work of Lionel Martin (AKA Saxa) were in a better position than most to thrive in this new aural landscape.

Following the relatively poor chart performance of their third studio album, “Special Beat Service”, The Beat disbanded in 1983 and Saxa, along with Beat drummer Everett Morton, teamed up with singer Tony Beet, to form a new band, International Beat, not to be confused with Fatboy Slim’s early-90s electronica outfit Beats International. International Beat, and, confusingly, Beats International, were active until 1992, releasing one album, 1986’s “The Hitting Line”, which was reissued in 1992 under the name “The Hitting Line Crosses The Border” featuring six additional tracks.

The tracks kicks off with watery, reverb-heavy rhythm guitar, evocative of much of The Beat’s later work, before a smooth Saxa saxophone line is introduced, reminiscent of much of the very best of what the band recorded. The mellow groove, complete with a dub-style bass-line just busy enough to keep the song flowing nicely, is set and remains for the full four minutes. Lyrically it’s a pure love song, a far cry from the political songwriting of the original Beat. It’s ska but it’s ska for a Sunday morning with a hangover, not for a Saturday night with a pint and it’s very easy on the ears.

The rest of the album offers much of the same, gentle, soulful, saxophone-led sound, although “Taking The Pills” is a short, fierce reminder of the International Beat’s roots. It’s easy to see why it never quite captured the public’s imagination like The Beat’s first two albums, but it serves as an excellent reminder of how rich and varied the ska genre can be.

Musically, the main difference between reggae and its predecessor, ska, is the tempo -- the beats are quite similar, but ska is played much faster. If you can imagine Steel Pulse's slick style of reggae played faster, you'll have an idea of what the International Beat sounds like. The racially mixed British band favors a pop-influenced approach to ska that does sound a bit like fellow Britons Pulse at times, although this ska-oriented CD contains little reggae. The Beat doesn't sound like a band that has consciously imitated Pulse, and projects an appealing identity of its own. Tunes like "Are You Ready" and "One More Chance" aren't fantastic, but they showed that the Beat had no problem being fun and catchy.


1 Rock Steady 2:29
2 Making Plans 2:08
3 One More Chance 3:04
4 Danny Danny Boy 4:21
5 Silver Bullet 3:23
6 Taking The Pills 1:45
7 Head Mans Plans 3:54
8 Stand And Be Counted 3:45
9 Are You Ready 3:51
10 Hard World 3:01
11 Head Mans Dub 3:51
12 Making Plans (Instrumental) 2:08
13 What You Are 5:13
14 Rudy (Acoustic Version) 5:09
15 Firing Line 3:07
16 Magical Feeling 3:57

2 Kommentare:

Cow hat gesagt…

Been curious about this one for decades, without ever having checked it out. Thanks for fixing that, it's a LOT better than I thought it might be. Very very good to hear Saxa & Everett once again!

zero hat gesagt…

Thanks for your feedback and glad you enjoy The International Beat!

Kommentar veröffentlichen