Reissue review: The Selecter – Too Much Pressure
An overdue deluxe edition of the pioneering classic lineup’s sole album is a reminder there was more going on than just those iconic 2Tone singles
Everyone knows On My Radio, and most Classic Pop readers could probably hum along to Three Minute Hero. The Selecter are rightly accepted as pioneers in the 2Tone movement, while Pauline Black is a respected cultural commentator. What has often been forgotten in the band’s history is how consistently excellent they were when they began, even if it was for a frustratingly brief period.
Just missing the 40th anniversary of their 1980 debut, Chrysalis’ excellent 3CD edition of Too Much Pressure spotlights an album every bit as good as The Specials’ debut or anything by Madness’ first incarnation. As guitarist Neol Davies says in author Daniel Rachel’s thorough sleevenotes, “What we accomplished in that short time is extraordinary.” Davies is right.
Unusually, it’s worth starting Too Much Pressure on its third CD, featuring The Selecter’s full 12-song homecoming performance in Coventry on 1979’s 2Tone tour, three months before the album’s release.
It’s strange that such an incendiary performance hasn’t been released before, but let’s celebrate it now it’s finally here. The seven-piece are mesmerisingly tight, every element coming together like Lego, with Black as the perfect ringmaster, defying the audience not to dance.
Producer Roger Lomas doesn’t quite capture the electrifying energy of The Selecter’s live show, but few would have managed it. The three-week album recording session was famously combustible, and it’s to Lomas’ credit that the studio versions of party starters like My Collie (Not A Dog) and Out On The Streets still resemble a band working in unison. Missing Words is a wonderful pop song, while the reinterpretation of the James Bond theme crackles.
As was frustratingly standard for 2Tone, one reason Too Much Pressure isn’t a staple classic album is that the band’s biggest hit is missing. The 7″ single of On My Radio is added to the vinyl package, while the second CD includes it among all the era’s standalone singles, B-sides and the obligatory John Peel session. By the time of the more explicitly political, brooding second album Celebrate The Bullet a year later, bassist Charley Anderson and keyboardist Desmond Brown had left. The Selecter never found the perfect formula again.
This deluxe set ends with five songs from a Hemel Hempstead gig the week Too Much Pressure was released. Hearing the band send suburban Hertfordshire wild on Black And Blue is reason enough to celebrate their too-brief heyday and realise why Too Much Pressure is worth its place among the scene’s classic LPs. There’s nothing wrong with being a singles band, but The Selecter can’t be defined solely in those terms. John Earls