A Ghost in the Machine
A review of ‘Dread Times’ – the latest album from Dreadzone
Arriving as a fresh face twenty something in early 90’s London I remember having a musical epiphany of sorts. My previous life in the provinces had followed the usual path: Pop > Prepubescent hand banging > Two Tone > The Smiths JTQ, Mother Earth and Corduroy and discovered Dub.… But now, hey, I was in the capital and needed genres which captured the sheer exhilaration of my new surroundings of the metropolis. I discovered the poetry of Gil Scott Heron, fell into the emergent Acid Jazz scene with
Though, like Christopher Columbus I discovered nuffin. It was there all along.
Dub- the of which origins lie deep in the studios of Kingston Jamaica and the experimentation of Lee Scratch Perry with its heavy bass, reverb, sampling of riffs, refrains and spoken word seemed the perfect cacophony to encapsulate the multi-cultural epicentre. Come one, come all. Though, like the music, the term Dub is amorphous, elastic and open to numerous interpretations. Dub- to have sex: The Silvertones- ‘dub the pum pum’ and Dub- the ghost in the machine. No, not the title of Gilbert Ryle’s 1967 seminal book delineating the mind/body duality but the idea that the ghost of innocent victims of a violent society (known as ‘duppies’ in Jamaica) are caught in the swirling rhythm of Dub itself.
Course I wasn’t completely new to dub it was just the first time I’d consciously used the term. After all, I was already a veteran of The Clash, had Big Audio Dynamite’s This is Big Audio Dynamite and was blown away by Primal Scream. However, I needed to go a little deeper. I checked out the usual suspects Massive Attack, Leftfield and of course, Dread Zone. Though, there is a shameful disclaimer here. After purchasing their second album Second Light (1995) from HMV East Ham High Street North I haven’t bought anything else by the outfit until now. Which, after listening on loop over the course of the weekend I feel somewhat embarrassed about.
Clearly, it’s my loss.
It’s been a long 22 years. Whilst Second Light captured the optimism of a post-Apartheid, post-cold war world full of optimism and inclusivity their latest and eight album- the semi-eponymous Dread Times- is symptomatic of our deeply divided and troubled times. Gone is the hope of Life, Love and Unity; the anthemic uplift of Little Britain (‘Britain today is a powerhouse’) and the quasi spiritualism of Shining Path. Instead Trump, Brexit and growing intolerance hang over the album like a miasma. That’s not a criticism, in fact it’s all the better for it. From the opening thunderstorm of Rootsman with its old skool dread sound and plea for a better time- ‘Roots music can never die’- to the overcoming of alienation in Mountain– ‘problems of our mind that we have to climb’- Dread Times takes us on an amazingly fresh journey through contemporary society and a seamless eclecticism, which moves effortlessly from dance hall to electronica to reggae. Recorded at Mick Jone’s Bunker Studio we hear the ghosts of The Clash and BAD as the band move into the sublime 16 Hole which should be a anthem for Black Lives Matter- ’16 hole in a dead man chest, Babylon take your hand off the gun- Murder’ to, what I would consider to the album’s apotheosis- Black Deus. Like Primal Scream at their finest the song blends the voices of dissent (in this case MLK, ‘we know from painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor…it must be demanded by the oppressed) with a euphoric beat and refrain of ‘freedom’ which must- if the tangerine man is allowed into the UK- become the soundtrack to what surely is going to become a year of protest and rebellion.
Overall, other than one minor clumsy rhyme on the album’s penultimate track Where is my Friend – ‘has he gone to meet his maker or is he in Jamaica..?’ this is a near flawless offering that not only shows a band at the height of their powers but also, why dub is the urban soundtrack par excellence. Here everything is truly connected into a vibrant London soundscape that not only is very much now but contains the ghosts of those murdered ‘duppies’ trapped in the brutal capitalist machine- for their sake, at the very least, Dread Times demands to be heard.
Now, if you excuse me, I have a lot of catching up to do…
Listen to Dread Times on Spotify (click below):
To buy Dread Times by Dreadzone: CLICK HERE
For more on Dreadzone: www.dreadzone.com
Contact Flash Harry