True Democracy - album review

Steve Sutherland in Melody Maker

6 March 1982

Since Handsworth Revolution - perhaps the greatest yet crucible of British cultures and styles committed to vinyl - Steel Pulse have come to sound like an unexpectedly spent force. Their aims are true as always, their talents remain untainted and they've done more than most of their surly brethren to spread the word, bridge the gaps and translate complex ghetto complaints into global concerns. They've backed RAR, played to all creeds and colours and semi-successfully tempered their difficult faith with a vividly accessible pop sensibility. But they've never quite seemed to recapture the crucial balance of melody and militancy that made Ku Klux Klan such a shocking, outspoken and effective skanking sensation.

True Democracy is the latest attempt to rekindle that spark. From the teacher - Marcus Garvey - on the front and back cover to the finale, Dub Marcus Say, it makes no bones about its characteristically educational bent. From the relaxed but always right-on vocal harmonies on Chant A Psalm to the nimble-footed dance-floor demon Ravers, it exhibits all the classic Pulse symptoms. Maybe that's its trouble.

TD is just another Steel Pulse album, full of that distinctively delicate but strangely inflexible sounds and those heartfelt but unforgivably flawed parables of rank religious logic.

Steel Pulse are still our best native reggae act, but TD is one more party political broadcast on behalf of the rasta party - miraculously free from mumbo jumbo, but monstrously monotonous in its muddled thinking.

Text copyright Melody Maker 1982, used without permission.

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