ALBUM REVIEW: The Specials Confront Modern Times on ‘Encore’

A worthy addition to the band’s vital catalog

Ska/two-tone legends The Specials haven’t made an album since 2001, but they explode back onto the scene with their latest Encore.

Reuniting the band’s classic lineup, including Terry Hall, Lynval Golding and Horace Panter, the album opens with a cover of “Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys” by The Equals, but it’s the second track, “B.L.M.,” that really drives home the point of the record. “I’m not here to teach you, I’m not here to preach to you, I just want to reach out and say,” sings Golding, waiting until the last iteration of the chorus to complete the sentence with a powerful “…black lives matter.”

Another standout track is “Breaking Point,” which features droning, carnival-like instrumentation alongside commentary on social media. “10 Commandments” features a voiceover by English activist Saffiyah Khan, who gained viral fame from a photo of her confronting far-right protesters while wearing a Specials’ T-shirt. It turns Prince Buster’s “Ten Commandments of Man” on its head, updating it with a feminist protest anthem for the 21st century. The band also takes on gun violence with a cover of “Blam Blam Fever” by the Valentines.

The second half of the deluxe version features live performances of other Specials’ songs. Taken as a whole, the album is a powerful missive on modern culture, and a worthy addition to the band’s vital catalog.

Score: ✊✊✊/5