Steel Pulse at The Rainbow - gig review

Paul Morley in NME

4 November 1978

Steel Pulse on stage from NME [pic: Denis O'Regan]

The Rainbow Theatre seemed a poor venue for Steel Pulse's Big London Gig, but reconsidering during this performance, it was probably second choice only to the Palladium. The covers have dropped; Pulse are simply entertainers. Nothing wrong with that, but remember how Pulse hooked themselves into the big time and it's slightly depressing.

Pulse's appeal may have been their 'idealism', their 'roots' (plus a right time, right place thing, and the influence of the present hip reggae circumstances) but it was a very meaningless, affected bag of tricks, a glossy petulance.

There were never any real risks taken...a very bitty sense of style, nothing actually uncomfortable. Their appeal now (and forever more...) is their predictability. The show wasn't such an effort to watch as the likes of 10cc but soon come a time when Pulse will be a vague equivalent to say Fleetwood Mac...or The Average White Band.

I like reggae as a combination of sounds, as with Coleman or Company, but Pulse's combination of sounds is as formal and as limited as any traditional six piece rock group. Despite each individual instrument never coming over any better than adequate, especially the knobbly, erratic bass, the whole unit proved mundanely sophisticated, with only the drums supplying any bite and threatening to push the sound into harder, less precise areas.

'Dub effects' are limited to stop...echo...start, or simple mixing manoeuvres, while the vocals are non descript and the harmonies thickly smooth.Visually, Pulse have failed to develop any theatre, still relying on mildly symbolic uniforms witha new light show the depth of their innovation. Steel Pulse as entertainers, are flat and unimaginative.

And all these references to Jah, the herb, desperation, revolution, rastafaria. What is that all about? Is it a joke? Why am I not laughing? How long before these plain chaps run out of rehearsed moves?

Steel Pulse are yet another bundle of ultimately accessible contradictions. They are a 'good reggae band' like Clash are the 'best rock 'n' roll group in the world' or Robinson is an 'effective catalyst'.

All these minimally seductive, superficial, 'revolutionists' are essentially naive, musically staid, lyrically obvious, visually twee and one mass compromise. Illusion, delusion, glamorous escapism - 'a damning indictment of the state of the nation.' I've had enough. I can't put up with any more.

Text copyright NME 1978, used without permission.

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