The Beat: I Just Can’t Stop It

May 16, 1980 – The Beat:  I Just Can’t Stop It is released in the UK.
# allmusic 5/5
# Rolling Stone (see original review below)
I Just Can’t Stop It is the debut album by UK 2 tone band The Beat. The album was released on this date in May, 1980 via Go Feet Records in the UK. It was released the same year in the US on I.R.S. Records under the name “The English Beat”.
The Beat was formed in Birmingham in 1978, with members Dave Wakeling (vocals, guitar), Ranking Roger (vocals, toasting), Andy Cox (guitar), Everett Morton (drums), veteran Jamaican saxophonist Saxa, and David Steele on bass. The band was part of the West Midlands ska revival scene that also produced The Specials and The Selecter, whilst London saw the formation of Madness and The Bodysnatchers. The Beat’s first single was an arresting version of Smokey Robinson’s “Tears Of A Clown”, given a completely new feel, and was backed with their own composition “Ranking Full Stop”. Released in a one-off deal on Jerry Dammers’ Chrysalis-backed 2-Tone label, the single stormed into the Top 10 in December 1979, and saw the band appear twice on Top Of The Pops. Backed by Arista, the band formed their own label Go-Feet Records. The first release in February 1980 was another Top 10 hit, “Hands Off… She’s Mine”, and was the first of twelve chart singles for the band on Go-Feet.
The English Beat make night music: wild and threatening, sexy and sharp. Five kids from England (two black, three white), triggered by a wicked Jamaican sax player of indeterminate age, these musicians play with the intensity of the truly possessed. Like the Specials (on whose Two Tone label they first recorded), the English Beat are part of the ska revival that’s taken British rock & roll one step beyond reggae. Their rude-boy attack shifts from ska to pop to updated R&B with a jazzy and nostalgic twist, but always it sounds driven, frenetic, unstoppable. The English Beat are really a punk-soul dance band caught in some private warp. They don’t just rock, they spin.
I Just Can’t Stop It includes four cuts released as singles in the U.K.: a bopper’s remake of the old Smokey Robinson hit, “Tears of a Clown”; the avowedly chauvinistic “Hands Off … She’s Mine”; a poignant love song called “Twist & Crawl”; and the searing “Mirror in the Bathroom.” These are set amid ten other numbers that move almost as quickly. Unfortunately, the ska tunes (e.g., “Rough Rider,” the obligatory Prince Buster cover) tend to seem pointless and clichéd, while the rest of the record is anything but. At their best – in “Twist & Crawl.” “Mirror in the Bathroom” and the incredibly frenzied “Click Click” – the English Beat slide black and white music together and mix them up on a razor’s edge of delirium. They sail right past ska to create a sound that’s violent, irresistible and rife with echoes of Fifties hipsterism. The Specials have often tried for such a blend, but they’ve never quite achieved it.
The English Beat are a working-class Birmingham band whose concerns are mutual and basic: sex, violence, women, other guys. Women are possessions, yet men are somehow supposed to get along. So you get a song like “Two Swords,” in which brotherhood is preached while someone chants. “Two swords flashing on each other/Only sharpen one another.” I guess that just about says it for male bonding. But if the English Beat were really interested in making statements, they wouldn’t have buried their vocals in the mix. What matters isn’t the words but the beat–and what a beat it is!
The point is made seven seconds into the album, when a wailing sax comes punching in over the pumping bass and drums that open “Mirror in the Bathroom,” giving it the hollow feel of cheap whiskey and deadend streets. Next are snake rhythms and trance playing that constantly threaten chaos because they’re so taut with control. Sax and rhythm section bounce off each other like boxers’ blows, and you’ve no choice but to be floored. Words fly out so fast that you’re halfway through the track before you realize the singer is actually talking to his mirror. He wants to take it to a restaurant! He’s promising a glass table so that it can watch itself eat! He mentions mental illness! Pardon me if I upset tables. I just can’t stop it.
Even in “Tears of a Clown,” one of the most danceable Motown numbers ever, the English Beat send us skittering in crazy new directions. Everything is slightly off balance and a little too speedy–this group’s trademarks. In the Andy Williams song, “Can’t Get Used to Losing You,” an innocuous tune is undercut by choirboy vocals and an impossibly smutty bass line.
The English Beat, in other words, are not to be trusted. They may be primitive, but they certainly aren’t simple. I Just Can’t Stop It is the most exhilarating surprise from Britain since Marianne Faithfull’s Broken English. (RS 325)
~ FRANK ROSE (September 4, 1980)
All songs written by The Beat, unless otherwise noted.
Side One
“Mirror in the Bathroom” – 3:10
“Hands Off…She’s Mine” – 3:01
“Two Swords” – 2:19
“Twist & Crawl” – 2:35
“Rough Rider” (Prince Buster) – 4:52
“Click Click” – 1:28
Side Two
“Big Shot” – 2:34
“Whine & Grine/Stand Down Margaret” – 3:51
“Noise in This World” – 2:19
“Can’t Get Used to Losing You” (Mort Shuman, Doc Pomus) – 3:04
“Best Friend” – 3:01
“Jackpot” (George Agard, Sydney Crooks, Jackie Robinson, The Beat) – 4:19
CD Reissue
“Mirror in the Bathroom” – 3:10
“Hands Off…She’s Mine” – 3:01
“Two Swords” – 2:19
“Twist & Crawl” – 2:35
“Tears of a Clown” ♦ (Hank Cosby, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder) – 2:39
“Rough Rider” (Prince Buster, arranged & adapted by The Beat) – 4:52
“Click Click” – 1:28
“Ranking Full Stop” ♦ – 2:44
“Big Shot” – 2:34
“Whine & Grine/Stand Down Margaret” – 3:51
“Noise in This World” – 2:19
“Can’t Get Used to Losing You” (Shuman, Pomus) – 3:04
“Best Friend” – 3:01
“Jackpot” (Agard, Crooks, Robinson, The Beat) – 4:19
Tracks marked ♦ were not included on the original UK release

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