Great Album Retro Review: The Beat By The Beat

I love ’70s & ’80s pop power. The Raspberries, The Knack, The dB’s all have great catchy tunes with lots of crashing guitars and danceable beats. Out of the ’70s Los Angeles music scene comes this underappreciated power pop band. The band that was responsible for the UK’s popular two tone, ska band being know as The English Beat in the States.

The Beat were led by veteran musician Paul Collins. And I admit it, I don’t know much about this band. I do recall WKRP In Cincinnati having a poster of the album cover in the DJ studio. (Try as I might, I couldn’t find an image showing that poster in the show, so we’ll just have to rely on my memory.) I think it was that show that led a friend of mine to pick up this debut album and share it with me. It may not be as well known as previous records I’ve reviewed on this blog, but it is so filled with great tunes that it had to be included in the series.

It was released in 1979 and its 12 tracks, written by Collins, breeze by in less than 32 minutes. The songs, for the most part, pack quite a pop punch. And when you’re done reading this, be sure to head over to Spotify to give The Beat a listen.

The Tracks:

Rock N Roll Girl – An anthem in tribute to rock n roll and the girls who love it. Collins laments about the popularity of disco and his desire to find a rock n roll girl as the jangly, driving guitars demonstrate this ain’t no disco.

I Don’t Fit In – The song feels like a marching tune inviting all those who feel the same to step in time.

Different Kind Of Girl – Written with bassist Steven Huff, Collins gives us the first of two ballads on the album. It’s the longest track on the album and it showcases the lead guitar prowess of band member Larry Whitman.

Don’t Wait Up For Me – This track starts with quiet pent up energy driven along by drummer Michael Ruiz, but then bursts out with the great three part harmonies that are all over this record. The song pulls back and builds and bursts over and over again. Something the Pixies would later make their signature sound.

You Won’t Be Happy – A nice little breakup song with a touch of ska.

Walking Out On Love – Another breakup song. Coming in at one minute and forty-five seconds, this is the shortest track on the record, but it sure packs a wallop. Best hook of any of the tracks and filled with great harmonies. It’s a blast! And it’s my favorite track.

Work-A-Day World – This one feels a little bit like filler to me, but it’s pretty good filler.

U.S.A. – This track was co-written by Peter Case, who had been a bandmate of Collins years earlier in their band called The Nerves before going on to form The Plimsouls. In fact, three of the songs (Walking Out On Love, Let Me Into Your Life, and Working Too Hard) on this album were originally written and recorded for The Nerves‘ self-titled 1976 EP. There’s a hint of The Beach Boys on this track.

Let Me Into Your Life – This track was co-written with Eddie Money, who received special thanks in the liner notes. The great harmonies are present and well as a bit of 60’s pop.

Working Too Hard – I’m reminded of The dB’s track – Working For Somebody Else – from their excellent 1987 release The Sound Of Music. There’s a little country twang to this track.

You And I – This is the second ballad on the album and it’s the most markedly different song of the collection. It’s piano-based, in fact there are no guitars to be found. There is a hint of what sounds like a mandolin though. It’s an ambitious track that doesn’t quite land for me.

Look But Don’t Touch – Ahhh. The guitars are back. Lots of drive and great riffs on this track. It’s a fun song. The song ends with Collins asking, “Is that enough for ya?” It would have been a great last track, but…

There She Goes – The album ends with this jangly, bouncy love song. Like much of what had gone before it includes the harmonies, riffs, and hooks that make this such a great record. It’s a last track that leaves the listener hanging just a little.

Packing Peanuts!

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Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.

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