by MIKE CHAIKEN
In the post-punk haze toward the end of the ‘70s, following the crash and burn of the Sex Pistols, the British music scene started to embrace a mix of ska music and punk attitude in 1979.
Groups like the Beat (known in the States as The English Beat) and the Specials mined what came to be known as 2-Tone.
The Selecter, although not as well known in America, was one of the most prominent 2-Tone bands in the U.K. Thanks to the vocals of Pauline Black, one of the few female lead singers in the movement, The Selecter carved a niche for itself in the 2-Tone movement with hits like “To Much Pressure” and “On My Radio.”
Although their profile and the profile of 2-Tone faded in the United States as the 1980s progressed, The Selecter continued to record and tour, issuing 12 albums since 1979.
The band—which these days also includes Neil Pyzer (Spear Of Destiny) and Will Crewdson (Rachel Stamp) and is co-fronted by original member Arthur “Gaps” Hendrickson– now has a new single, “Frontline,” and a new album, “Daylight.” in hand. The band also is on the road, including a stop in Fairfield.
Pauline Black, interviewed via email, spoke about the new music and the rise of 2-Tone.
“All of our albums try to remain true to our founding ethos as part of the 2-Tone movement, which was to continually highlight the social and political pressures that cause so much inequity in human society. That is a wide brief and although much has improved for many people in the ensuing years, the problems of racism and sexism still give pause for thought and provide a rich seam to joyfully explore in our music,” said Black while discussing “Daylight.”
The first single off the new album is called “Frontline,” which tackles the topic of the internet.
“This song was written in the aftermath of the infamous UK Brexit vote (in which the nation voted to leave the European Union),” explained Black. “British people were told lies and promised much to deliver that result. Much of that discussion took place on social media, which became a powerful tool in the polarization of our current society.”
“We saw a similar phenomenon take place just a few months later in the U.S.A. when President Trump was elected,” said Black.
“This polarization, fueled by lies, greed, unsecured credit and insular jingoistic attitudes has led to a new ‘Frontline’ – social media– where people go to fight out these issues in the public arena.”
As someone who lived through the 2-Tone movement, Black was asked to describe the time period for those who were too young to have lived it.
“In 1980, the 2-Tone movement was a loose subculture of different youth tribes – skinheads, mods, punks, rude boys and rude girls, who all enjoyed a love of ska music,” said Black. “In 1979, we came together to fight racism, sexism, economic inequality and homophobia with music that subtly and sometimes not so subtly, addressed these issues at a time when most bands avoided such subject matter if they wanted to get their albums in the charts.”
“We defied that ethos and for a period of time won over a lot of young people with our inclusive ideas about the society we lived in,” said Black.
As for whether 2-Tone made a difference, Black said, “It stirred some people to think differently and embrace a more inclusive lifestyle. I think that was a positive outcome.”
2-Tone also rose during a time there was the pushback on the part of some Britons against the immigration of Asians and West Indians to the nation. It’s a situation that echoes in today’s England, said Black.
“The insular jingoistic pot has been stirred again in Britain, and similarly in the U.S.A.,” said Black. “World leaders always like to blame society’s ills on those most recently arrived in their countries, rather than their abhorrent foreign policies. It’s a hollow ploy and historically has never won as a strategy.”
“After 37 years of making 2-Tone music, I still believe that a hybrid mix of ska/reggae/punk/ and rock and forthright lyrical content gives a voice to disaffected people everywhere,” said Black. “It’s why The Selecter is at home anywhere it plays, be it a punk show or a reggae show. We embrace the subcultures and they embrace us.”
The last time The Selecter performed in the States was October 2016, prior to the election of President Trump.
“It was a great time to be in America and talk to audiences about the issues involved and how the election outcome would affect their lives,” said Black.
Black added, “It will be interesting to return and continue that conversation. We are always available before or sometimes after shows to sign merch and chat to audiences about the performance they’ve just seen. So come see us at the merchandise stand and bring your best polemic.”
When The Selecter takes the stage for its American tour this time, Black said, “We will be previewing four new tracks… and a ‘selected selection,’ embracing all the hits from ‘Too Much Pressure,’ ‘Celebrate The Bullet,’ and ‘Subculture’ albums. But most of all they will see a typically high energy show that aims to ‘tickle the brain cells as well as the soles of their feet’.”
The Selecter plays StageOne, 70 Sanford St., Fairfield on Monday, Aug. 7. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 7:45 p.m. Tickets are $48.
For more information, go to www.FairfieldTheatre.org or TheSelecter.net