The Selecter Cruel Britania

by Spyder Darling

Seminal modern ska specialists The Selecter wont have much luck gate crashing the pop chartson the platinum coat tails of the Bosstones, No Doubt or other new frat house favorites with their new CD Cruel Britania on Snapper Records. The new disc neither compares to The Selecters exciting early hits nor can hope to compete with the upstart bands they helped influence. Oh how the mighty mighty have fallen! So, when The Selecters vocalist and sole original member Pauline Black insists that the new album is the best thing theyve made since 1981", one has to wonder if shes actually listened to it.

According to the Selecter(whose name is derived from The Selectors the original promoters/producers/DJs of Jamaican Ska music in the 1950s) Cruel Britania was recorded in just 11 days. Maybe if theyd had time, money, a different producer than bassist Nick Welch, or at least one other original member, there might have been a chance of recreating the spontaneous chemistry which made the Selecter dance hall heros of twenty years ago. Early hits form the groups years on 2-Tone Records Three Minute Hero and Too Much Pressure remain standards of the modern ska circuit. Cruel Britanias listless songs sound like they were recorded by a different band. Probably because they were. In essence, this is a Pauline Black solo record and it was the height of bad manners to credit it any other way. Its a pity that The Selecters sterling reputation has now been tarnished by association with the new and decidedly unimproved version of the band.

So, with none of The Selecters eminently skankable trademarks in place, Paulines mistakenly tried to substitute some new ones. The latest line-up makes too little use of two former members of Bad Manners, Martin Stewart(keyboards) and the aforementioned Nick Welsh, who really should stick to bass and stay the hell out of the producers chair. Cruel Britania was recorded live in the studio with minimal time spent on backing tracks. Again one wonders What was the rush? They havent had a hit in two decades! Im sure the musical stew would have been much tastier had they taken an extra month or three to cook up some catchy grooves or spicey production ideas.

Jamaican singer Dave Barker of Lee Perrys Upsetters contributes some authentic personality to Cruel Britania via The Viper and Lyrical Sniper and covers of 60s ska classics Delroy Wilsons Better Must Come and Lee Perrys What A Confusion. Too bad the disc had isnt a Dave Barker record with occasional vocals by Pauline Black, rather than the other way around.

Credit must also be given to the track Musical Servant. Its a heartfelt tribute to the late Tommy McCook whos shuffling, jazzy sax playing with the Skatalites in the early 60s has affected Jamaican music ever since. including the musics ever expanding derivatives from Skazz to Ska-core and the new latin hued Salska.

The Selecter are planning to leave their London lair in April to tour in support of the new album, which is probably a good idea since it needs all the support it can get. Perhaps when they get back in a sweaty club setting in front of a house packed tight with rude boysn girls, the band can relight the fire that fueled the full stop ranking of the bands diamond days. Otherwise this whole Britania affair has been a Cruel twist of fate indeed!