With each succeeding album, the English Beat's melting pot has grown warmer and warmer. On their first two albums, the original ingredients of Birmingham working- class kids and West Indian vets of new-wave lyrics and ska rhythms were a fascinating stew. Three years of playing together have blended the ingredients on a new album, "Special Beat Service." The record's distinctive, consistent sound folds the band's political anthems and love songs into tales about bedroom and kitchen politics.
The previously dominant musical flavors of new wave and ska have given way to their common ancestor: American soul. Though Jamaican rhythms still lurk beneath the songs, the best tunes have the catchy snap of Motown classics: The shift to hummable melodies and hip-swiveling rhythms works because the band is writing stronger melodies and has matured into a flawless rhythm unit. The new single "Save It for Later" is a compelling dance plea for no game-playing in the bedroom. Even better is "Sole Salvation," with its plea for toleration, a grabby Motown hook and a grand saxophone solo. The English Beat is preserving one of rock'n'roll's key promises: You can dance and think at the same time. ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUM THE ENGLISH BEAT -- Special Beat Service (I.R.S., SP70032). THE SHOW THE ENGLISH BEAT with THE BONGOS AND THE BANGLES Saturday at 8 at Ritchie Coliseum, Univeristy of Maryland.