Steel Pulse Mellows Out Revolution on Wednesday
One of the longest-running roots reggae bands around, Steel Pulse now boasts a list of former members twice as long as that of its current lineup. Only two of its current players have appeared on all 11 of the band's studio albums: keyboardist and backing vocalist Selwyn Brown and lead guitarist and vocalist David Hinds. That's been enough, though, to hold up the band's strong musical and lyrical backbone.
At its inception in the mid-'70s, the band of Jamaican expats in northern England caught wind of the musical current coming from the island: ever-slowing tempos and increasingly direct lyrics about spirituality and social unrest. At the beginning, Steel Pulse was a fairly radical act for the U.K., espousing Rastafarianism, joining the Rock Against Racism movement early on, and touring with punk bands like the Stranglers.
But where their peers later descended into tirades of fire and brimstone, Steel Pulse has always kept things musical enough to preach with relative subtlety. Eschewing the lure of dancehall-style studio tricks, the band has always kept things strictly roots, pulling up the people with a trance-building blend of steady, spaced-out rhythms and sweet vocals.
It's been some six years since the band's last studio effort, African Holocaust. A new one is said to be in the works for release later this year, and as always, it should prove to be topical. An early taste came in the form of the 2008 "Barack Obama Song," the band's contribution to his campaign. True to form, it was a melodic, midtempo number full of squishy dub layers and a straightforward political message. Perhaps the finished disc will include a presidential progress report.
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