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Album Review

In their prime, Steel Pulse looked poised to become the best reggae band in U.K. history. And arguably, in fact, they were the best — at least during the mid-'80s. But the late '80s and '90s found them releasing a string of albums whose quality can most charitably be characterized as uneven. Vex was certainly not the worst of these — that distinction probably belongs to 1988's dreary State of Emergency — but it comes as a disappointment after the sharp and tuneful Victims. Lead singer and primary songwriter David Hinds seems to be scraping the bottom of his barrel of inspiration here: "In My Life" features one of the lamest choruses ever committed to tape; "Bootstraps" opens with a string of clichés and never does anything to redeem them (and sadly can't be rescued even by a fine DJ appearance by Tony Rebel), and "Islands Unite" seems to be demanding a political independence for Jamaica that had already been won 40 years earlier. Hinds is in strong voice as always, and Steve Nesbitt's beats are as powerfully tensile as always (an element of the Steel Pulse sound that hasn't always gotten the attention it deserves). But without great songs, a great sound is just an empty shell, and great songs are very hard to come by on this disappointing effort.

Customer Reviews

Walking the fine line on the right side

With so much racism and repression its no wonder that many "black" artists have revolutionary under tunes demanding equality and justice. However, many next generations simply picks up the causes of the last and rather then advancing them just rewrites them. This is called a "cliche". Its hard to do to find a band that is more then echo's revolutionary forefathers. You're luckly. Steel Pulse makes its own artistic fortune rather then simply inheriting its music and politics from past working formals. Summary: Its Worth The Buy

Not their best work, but best of the newer stuff.

Steel Pulse is an excellent band, but there newer stuff is too,how can I put this...popy. I mean it sounds like all synthesizer. Track 3,4,5, and 12 are the ones I would reccomend if you are to get any.

Some good songwriting but not good mastering and production

Much of this album unfortunately suffers from bad mastering and engineering. The highs and lows are really widely separated, and there's a crispy ringy quality to the high frequencies that sounds weak. But there are a few well-written tunes, most notably "No Justice No Peace", "Dirty H2o", "New World Order", and "In My Life". The most popular song was "Back to My Roots", which was reminiscent of their older sound. To me it sounds forced, though. It sounds like Steel Pulse imitating Steel Pulse. "Islands Unite" is pretty good, but the version on Rastanthology is quite a bit better.

Biography

Formed: 1975 in Birmingham, England

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Steel Pulse were one of Britain's greatest reggae bands, rivaled only by Aswad in terms of creative and commercial success. Generally a protest-minded Rastafarian outfit, Steel Pulse started out playing authentic roots reggae with touches of jazz and Latin music, and earned a substantial audience among white U.K. punks as well. Their 1978 debut, Handsworth Revolution, is still regarded by many critics as a landmark and a high point of British reggae. As the '80s wore on, slick synthesizers and elements...
Full Bio
Vex, Steel Pulse
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