THE ALBUM -- Too Much Pressure, Chrysalle (CHR 1274).; The SHOW -- At the Bayou, Thursday at 8 and 11.
Take one part Carribbean folk music, add equal parts of British rock and American rhythm & blues, shake well, and you've got ska -- a precursor of reggae that's currently enjoying a revival. This Thursday, The Selecter will offer their version of the new amalgam in two shows at the Bayou. It promises to be a lively visual performance if not an electrifying musical experience.
The Selecter's debut album, "Too Much Pressure," isn't the best example of ska now on the market. Tracks suffer from muddled drums, an overly controlled horn section and repetitive lyrics. After a while, the lazy, swaying backbeat becomes tired and seems to need a lift. Although other ska groups like Madness and The Specials remedy the lethargy with entertaining words and playful musicianship, not so The Selector. This English crew sounds as if it's been too long in the island sun.
The LP'S best cut is "On My Radio," where a call-on-response chorus comes alive between keyboard and guitar licks. Male and female voices alternate in Jamaican street talk about "the same old show/ on my radio": He like to dance to it down in the streets He said he loved me but he love the beat
Too bad the majority of songs on "Too Much Pressure" lack distinctive sounds within the ska mold. "Danger" couldn't be less threatening; it's the same old beat with inappropriate partytime vocals. "Missing Words" has only those two discernable lyrics. "Three Minute Hero," currently on the charts in England, is nothing you'd remember ten minutes later. The tune is a monotonous ode to the average working man, down on his luck and looking to grab a few moments of fame (a la Warhol). Yet, the cut does have a redeeming hot saxophone interlude.
One notable number, "My collie (Not A Dog)," is a tribute to Millie Small's pop hit of long ago, "My Boy Lollipop." That song was of the "bluebeat" genre -- a West Indian forerunner of reggae that never made a huge splash in this country. But The Selecter's vocalist Pauline Black, backed by the six other group members, tries again with this bow-wow number, blurring bluebeat and rock in a coy tune about the Jamaican herb -- "my collie, it make me feel so high." It's the barks included at the end of the tune that make you think the producer's had too much ganja, too.
Unfortunately, The selecter's first album fails to stir up captivating calypso beats or interesting R&B funk. And its vocals most often come across as boring or unintelligible. "Too Much Pressure" has all the right ska ingredients, but the end product falls flat.