When we looked at the spoils of RSD 2023 a few weeks ago, one of the bright spots across the pond was The Higsons “Complete 2-Tone Recordings” on LP. I’d long wanted to hear more of this band than their excellent single “Tear The Whole Thing Down” single as recounted on the great 2-Tone collection I’ve already reviewed. And now I have! When Jerry Dammers 2-Tone wanted to expand the label beyond the boundaries of its initial salvo of 2nd wave Ska acts, he chose well with The Higsons. The UK record buyers are in for a treat next weekend when the 500 copies of the fabbo disc below drops.
The Higsons: Run Me Down – The Complete 2-Tone Recordings – UK – LP 
- Tear The Whole Thing Down
- Ylang Ylang
- Run Me Down [12″ version]
- Run Me Down
- Put The Punk Back Into Funk [pts. I & II]
- Run Me Down [instrumental]
Few songs ostensibly about nuclear annihilation anxiety were as paradoxically life affirming as “Tear The Whole Thing Down” was. The horn driven scorcher was all about the dancefloor, but uniquely, for 1982, the synthesizers were held at bay. This was all down to bass, drums, guitars and horns. And if they used a Claptrap® instead of their hands on this one, I’ll grant them that courtesy. This one dared to rail against the apocalypse with gusto; the pressure cooker of the horns and bass framing the vocals of Charlie Higson with fire and fury.
The queerly named “Ylang Ylang” was the B-side to “Tear The Whole Thing Down” and this one had a bit of a Latin feel with the exuberant horns and its skittery Rhumba beat. This almost could sit next to Pigbag material except it’s far more frantic and endearing with Higson’s enervated yelp sounding particularly vulnerable. The first chorus as given below was such deft wordplay that I’m still grinning each time I hear it after a dozen listens. It was shocking to hear Higson modulate his usually reedy voice into a baritone croon [?!] on the third verse.
The second single, “Run Me Down,” featured a bass synth tucked away in the intro if we paid attention, but also with plenty of Colin Williams’ muscular bass for more than good measure. Stuart McGeachin’s tightly coiled rhythm guitar and clearly synthetic claps made certain that the 12″ single was fully enmeshed into the sound of 1983. The slick femme backing vocals also made the grade in ways that gave this delicious number a better shot at the charts, comparatively. At nearly 7:30 there was plenty of dancefloor luxuriation with plenty of riffing and breakdowns for the last three minutes of the cooking number.
I have to say that I almost preferred the EQ and mix to the 7″ version that followed, as it featured more bass and midrange that I thought grounded the Funk better. The bass positively pops in this mix! Both tracks have the same smoking hot instrumental break with the full band making the most of the middle eight. it’s hard to believe that UK radio was falling all over Wham! and Culture Club instead of this one back in 1983. It hit much the same marks with far more verve and character.
But I have to say that it was the B-side to “Run Me Down” which was the jaw dropper on this collection. “Put The Punk Back Into Funk” was a frantic jolt of Funk at near Hardcore tempo! As I listened agape to this one, I had to think that the music bed here was the result of some Joe Meek-like varispeed hijinx. After a screaming four count from Charlie Higson, the song wasted no time in bolting form the starting gate at full speed for the first part of its breakneck speeding length.
And better yet, the lyrics painted vituperative gobs of vitriol spat at the very heart of the machinations of the music industry and society in general. Higson is having none of this and this tale told, full of sound and fury, managed to signify everything worth caring about.At the three minute mark; having delivered a full six minutes worth of scathing content, the song slams into a veritable brick wall with a clanging guitar chord reverberating as the comparatively chilled out instrumental second part of the song held court for a few minutes more.
In spite of the fact that only two singles comprised this collection, the caliber of the material and the spirited performances ensured that at just under a half hour, this was the sort of compelling album that invited our ears to play it again immediately afterward. The LP hits the shops in the UK and Europe on Saturday, April 22nd. If like me, you live elsewhere, then Rough Trade UK might be able to help us out after the big weekend. Word to the wise… “Put The Punk Back Into Funk” is only on this disc, apart from 40 year old singles of “Run Me Down” so act accordingly!
Did you steal my bongos?
Rupert – I wouldn’t think of stealing your bongos!