If Two-Tone was the perfect storm of the imported Jamaican ska and reggae sounds and the punk spirit and wild energy that was fermenting in British inner cities in the late 70’s then Rude Rebels is nothing short of a continuation of that story. Far from being a nostalgic look back it is a glorious next instalment from people who helped define it and champion it in the first place.
As singer and toaster in The Specials, one of the leading lights of that sharp dressed musical revolution, Neville Staple footnote in the annals of music history is more than assured and here he is joined not only by his partner-in-crime Sugary Staple but also by Specials incendiary guitarist Roddy “Radiation” Byers. Together they journey through punked up anthems, dancehall ska, sweet rebel reggae, dub and bluebeat originals in a celebration of the sounds and styles that fused when the children of West Indian migrants to the UK grew up running around with disillusioned punks, soul boys and musical explorers.
With next year being the 40th Anniversary of The Specials and 2Tone Records, its release is perfect timing particularly because Rude Rebels pulses with all the creative energy and musical deftness that beat at the heart of the original movement. Rebel Down kicks things off with a brilliant blast of punk driven defiance, the ska licks complimented by Byers beloved rock’n’roll moves before heading off into smoother, more soulful territory. Boy (Dub Out) is quite expectedly based in dub heavy grooves and Original Rudegirl Sound reminds us that it wasn’t just the boys driving the new ska party. The Border follows more reggae lines and Way of Life is a timeless infectious skanking celebration.
It would be easy for the people behind such a record to sit back on their laurels, to feel that their work has already been done and they could just coast through. No-one would say that they haven’t already made their contribution. But the fact that Rude Rebels contains all the energy, verve and passion of the original Two Tone scene explains why the genre and artists such as the Staples and Byers are still as relevant as ever.