Album of the Week: Steel Pulse’s Earth Crisis (1984)

Forgive me if this one reads weird because I’m in the midst of a 4-days-and-running cold that is probably not Covid (but could be) but still kicking me around, and I’m under the influence of cold medicine and a weird sleep schedule. That said…

This album has one of the best opening lines ever, which is: “Open sesame / Here comes Rastaman!” Dudes were coming out the gate lit, and “Steppin’ Out” might feel almost too cheery an opener when you look at this album’s cover art. Interesting collage that features such evils as the KKK, napalm bombing, Reagan, and the uh… Pope? I don’t really know enough about history to know what Cold War England was like in the early 80s, but maybe the vibes were shaky. “Tightrope” and the title track embody this unease lyrically.

Reggae was not averse to the squeaky clean sheen of 80s production, and it shows here. While the smooth sax (“Throne of Gold”) and synthetic sounds might be a horrorshow to some, I love it. Plus, Steel Pulse have the songs to back it up. Their style isn’t for those who stick to early roots or obscure dub sounds, but they’ve certainly built up a legacy over some decades. The first time I heard them was playing Tony Hawk’s Underground 2, which featured “Born Fe Rebel”. Fantastic song, and I was later turned onto this album’s centerpiece “Rollerskates” (AKA “Life Without Music”) via DJ Screw’s legendary June 27 tape (whaaaat). The normal tempo version rules, too, and is one of Steel Pulse’s best known songs. Once again, Steel Pulse manage to take a dark subject (getting your radio jacked [smh]) and make it sound like sunshine.

I’ll let Wikipedia’s description of “Wild Goose Chase” take the lead here: “This song laments the misguided use of technology for purposes which the song’s author, David Hinds, views as unnatural, such as in vitro fertilization.” This one also calls out contraception and calls abortion “legal murder”. Bro are you an ally or what? It’s 2022. No but ending the album with an anti-abortion jam is pretty weird. Still kinda bops tho. Smh.

Overall, this album is fire and makes me want to listen to more Steel Pulse. If they have any better albums let me know.

Listen to Earth Crisis here.

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