2000Tone: Punky Reggae Lives!

June 30, 2010

Words by Eddie STATS Houghton


In the recent Shabba issue of FADER I described dancehall like this:

” Itโ€™s as if the countervailing forces of punk and reggae, which famously clashed on the streets of late 70s London, produced some sort of Weird Science lovechild; a nuclear fission of anarchy and Rasta, pro-black and angry white.ย  By 1987, that bastard child emerged, fully grown at age 10, pre-meditated rips in itโ€™s clothing held together by gold chains instead of safety pins, razor-lines shaved into itโ€™s eyebrows and unruly dreads carved into sharp geometric angles, ready to claim itโ€™s birthright.”

Several things happened this week to remind me that that spirit of punky reggae fusion is alive and well in 2010. First, I saw the trailer of the new Don Letts doc Superstonic Sound. If that bastard child of punk and reggae ever got a paternity test the results would come back thoroughly knotted up with Letts’ DNA. Whether breaking dub records as the house DJ at the very first punk club, selling bondage gear and knick-knacks at the shop he ran on King’s road–not to mention as film-maker, (he directed both The Clash’s Westway to the World and the Beenie Man vehicle Dancehall Queen!) pop icon and attender of riots (see the pic below) no one has influenced that fusion more. Apparently innovation runs in the family, as the film takes on both Don’s bio and that of his dad–a soundsystem proprietor and one of the first Jamaican migrants to the UK.

Next thing, OG FADER editor Lee Harrison hit me with the latest installment of his Midnight Rockers Express podcast. the unique genius of the MRE formula is that it applies a soundsystem palette of echo, sirens and Mikey Dread-style samples to the latest independent music, from the wistful church-rock of The Cults to the aggro-pop of MIA. In Lee’s own words: “like if Red Alert was in his twenties I think he would bang some of these jams, finding the soul and the bass in them the way he would the Police or Phil Collins.” Highly rated–although MRE fully exploits the different genres covered by the word rockers, the Jamaican inspiration is well-represented on this mix by Horace Andy, Alice Russell’s wicked one-drop take on the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” and the neo-Congos dub of CHLLNGR.

I recommend you watch the trailer, then let MRE 19 play in the background as you read this recent mediation on the influence of bauxite on the direction of British and Jamaican music.