Between the headlines about Bain Capital, Barclays’ rates scandal, and college indebtedness, pondering international and individual wealth seems unavoidable. For many twentysomethings across the globe, music is a momentary retreat from this madness, a safe haven to dance, relax, and generally thrash around like an unbridled lunatic. Reggae and dub music have long attempted to fuse these two spheres, delivering powerful messages of socioeconomic inequality against sun-kissed Caribbean beats. Led by London’s Barry Ashworth, the Dub Pistols became increasingly dance floor-friendly throughout the aughts, but have made a dramatic return to their socially conscious roots with Worshipping the Dollar.
The overtly political tone is set with the dub-meets-hip-hop beats of “West End Story”. “Is the world not one big slave ship/ Where some are still whipped and stripped naked/ All your freedom is written on your pay slip/ Where most of humanity lives in abject poverty/ is that not insanity?” bemoans guest vocalist Akala over the track’s skank guitar loop. The message is echoed through the progressive dancehall stylings of “Gun Shot”, reverberates on the dub bass-line of “Bad Card”, and punches atop the horn section and electro-blips of “Alive”. With narratives written and recorded by multiple artists across the U.K. and Barbados, listeners are offered a glimpse into inequalities that exist far outside of London.
Former London Posse member Rodney P. delivers the disc’s jovial dance-floor edge on “Mucky Weekend”, “Rock Steady” (feat. Lindy Layton), and “Gun Shot”. The jungle beats of “Mucky Weekend” propel the tale of hedonistic debauchery, complete with cocaine, boozing, and an ecstasy-fueled sexual encounter. “Bang Bang” (feat. Kitten & The Hip) comes from an alternate reality where ska made its way backward to smoky prohibition-era concert halls. The track places the female in the power position, repeating her dark post-breakup thoughts: “Shoot you a million times…but you wouldn’t ever get deader.”
Like current political rhetoric, Worshipping the Dollar contains hints of agenda teemed with pomp. Even so, we don’t see anyone choosing “Countermeasure” over Bob Marley’s “One Love ” for a Presidential Inauguration anytime soon.
Essential Tracks: “West End Story”, “Mucky Weekend”