With such joyous and groovesome music being made, it is easy to forget that reggae music, the real sound of reggae at least, comes from a spiritual place, a place of wisdom, a place of teaching. As the musical voice of the Rastafarian ethic, its heart is always found in matters of spirituality, social justice, politics and community and, as all such subjects are intrinsically related, often all of them at once.
And so it is with the music of Link & Chain in general and Dirty Works in particular. Here, the band are reminding us to stay on the pure path, the one that enables us to do the right thing and not be led astray by the powers of evil…by the devil.
But, as is always the way in reggae, even the most powerful and poignant message is driven by the coolest of music. Even the most heartfelt of warnings comes hand in hand with the most heavenly music. Dirty Works is built on the genres ever-present ska licks and deep bass grooves, punchy, punctuating percussion and cool salvos of vocal wisdom. But more than that, it is threaded through with beguiling swirls of electronica and rising organ swells, it takes in some roots-rock lead guitar lines and is soaked in gorgeous harmonies. It’s what Link & Chain does, and does so brilliantly.
I often comment on the shallowness of modern music, especially in the face of the dark clouds gathering in the world. In the past, such moments of danger and dissatisfaction have ushered in whole musical movements, from rock’n’roll to hip-hop to punk to rave. But lately, music seems devoid of the bursts of expression, the warning shots across the musical bows, the pent up energy and emotion that you would expect to counter the machinations of the modern world.
And then I realise that reggae has been doing it for around 50 years. It has been making a stand, rabble-rousing, offering guidance and making its spiritual-political stand for the benefit of all. It has always had our back and been willing to fight our corner. And Dirty Works carries on this necessary work for the modern listener.
Of course, most people arrive here for the cool music and the infectious grooves, the gorgeous tones and textures that it is built from. But, once they get here, how can they not be affected by the message that the music carries?