Over the years i’ve not had the strongest of bonds with reggae. That same bond shatters completely when the genre is needlessly replicated by European artists, whose closest association to the West Indies is a can of Red Stripe and the distinction of owning Bob Marley’s ‘Exodus’. UB40 and their karaoke cover versions, of once outstanding releases, further destroyed any interest i had in a music type that was perviously renowned for social protest, and not red wine.
However, my reggae bond, it would appear, now shows signs of a surprising recovery due to a clever mixture of the aforementioned Jamaican rhythm and a side plate of ska, punk and oodles of cleverly placed pop choruses. Ladies and gentlemen i give you London’s ‘Will and the People’ and their third LP ‘Whistleblower’.
Let’s make one thing absolutely clear from the offset. This is not an album suggesting revolution or equally serious messages of economic change. What you have in these 12 tracks are a collection of the most uplifting mixed-genre recordings you’ll hear this year. For the duration of the album you simply need not concern yourself with government policies, or for that matter whether your daughters school is in the correct catchment area or if the pile of post outside Malcolm’s flat is there simply because he is on holiday and not …. well you get the picture. It’s production gauge has been set to ‘up-beat’ and shame on anyone who dares move it any lower.
There will be listeners, like me, who will still have slight concerns at four white London guys making tunes that are primarily reggae in genre. But the cleverness here is how they’ve intwined the familiar four beats to a bar with rock elements, ‘Plasters’, and pop tunes that even ‘The Feeling’ would be slightly envious of. ‘Trustworthy Rock’ is the full package. It pulls together beautiful strings, that familiar reggae rhythm and a chorus i’ve not been able to shake in the last 24 hours. And then, just as you’re thinking this is as good as it gets, along comes ‘Pear Shapes’ which uses wonderful layered vocals to further confirm that ‘Will and the People’ are very competent song-writers.
‘Jekyll and Hyde’ is probably the albums only weak point. It’s an instantly forgettable track that lacks any of the like-ability the remainder of the album possesses. However, credit where credit is due as it still sticks to the up-beat formula.
The mixed genre’s on show here are a Radio play-lists dream. The offerings could easily feature on the likes of XFM, 6Music, Radio 2 and the entire breadth of local radio. That however could also be its un-doing as people do like to pigeon-hole bands. There are so many influences here that sometimes you just need to take the material at a grass-roots level and give it a chance. Enjoy it for what it is. Governments will not topple as a result of this release but who cares. Enjoy it and don’t over analyse its make-up. Every music genre has recreated itself over the years and ‘Will and the People’ have done just that with their take on reggae.
New single ‘Shakey Ground’ is out in September along with their third LP ‘Whistleblower’ (out on 29th September 2014, via Baggy Trouser Music). The band also have a series of up-coming live dates and can be seen at…