Dubwiser – A Crack In Paradise
I first came across Dubwiser a few months back, when they opened for Mister Lee Scratch Perry at The Regal in Oxford. I’d heard the name before; after all, they’ve been highly prominent on the Oxford music scene since the late eighties, but I’d never witnessed one of their live sets or heard any of their songs. All that changed on the aforementioned night at The Regal. From the moment they walked on stage, Dubwiser commanded the respect and attention of the crowd; a brain melting, high energy mixture of dub, roots, soul, dancehall, ska and pop, made even more exciting by dreadlocked front man Jonas Torrance leaping around the stage like his life depended on it!
It was quite honestly one of the best sets I have ever witnessed in my life, and will stay with me forever (unless I go senile of course), quite amazing. So, it was with excitement when I heard the news that, after over twenty years playing together, Dubwiser were finally set to release their debut album. That’s got to be some kind of record, surely?! The question is, of course, will it sound anything as amazing as their live shows? Let’s find out…..
A Crack In Paradise is an album of many different moods, textures, sounds and vibes. It incorporates a wide variety of musical styles; so many, in fact, that it’s difficult to keep count! Everything from roots reggae, dubstep, dancehall, folk, punk, rocksteady, psychedelia, ska and skiffle, often all at the same time. You may have already heard the effortlessly chirpy, uplifting single “Ride Your Life Like A Bicycle”, the album’s second track. I sat down listening to the album today, on a fairly cold, dull afternoon in the North West of England. I kid you not, as soon as this track reached its chorus, the sun came out, and everything suddenly seemed right in the world! Coincidence? Probably, but that’s not the point. A song like this should elevate you from the realms of cynicism and make you feel good about yourself, even if it’s only for a limited amount of time. Give it a listen on Youtube; I can almost guarantee it will put a smile on your face! The album version has a brilliantly surreal outro; featuring strange noises and a muffled spoken word piece abut bicycles (or something). Live favourites “Cool U Fire” and “Bye Bye” are in a similar vein; catchy, colourful slices of sunshine pop reggae which stay in your head for hours afterwards and already sound like standards. These guys really know how to write a tune! There’s also a gorgeous love song in the shape of “Slowly”, a duet between Jonas and guest female vocalist Asher D, which features a truly spine tingling bass line courtesy of band member Paul “Tads” Tadman; and, in the shape of “Papa Is A Rudie”, possibly the world’s first rave/calypso crossover track!
It’s not all fun and games though. There are specks of darkness nestled in amongst the rays of sunshine. “Bang Up” is a hard edged, gritty number dealing with wrongful imprisonment and police oppression, with elements of dub, punk rock and ragga, whilst “Power Up” is an angry attack on the UK Government’s abandonment of the poor with their increases in tuition fees and lack of skills based work schemes. “A Racist (Stays The Same), meanwhile, is a tense, edgy diatribe against an unnamed perpetrator of racial abuse whom the band may have come across in the past, whilst “Africa (1 Out Of 2)” and “U Cannot Rule” are both dark, towering pieces of roots music reminiscent of Peter Tosh at his most fearsome. Elsewhere, we get pieces such as “Snake”, a musically pretty number with deceptively dark, Biblical lyrics, which features some stunning violin work from band member Malcolm Atkins; the manic, rattling rhythms of “Dubwiser Groooove” and “Come Forward”, and a tribute to organic farming and food recipes in the shape of “Organic”, which also warns of the dangers of eating Junk Food.
A Crack In Paradise is a dizzying, fun, fierce and highly quirky 73 minute snapshot of 21st century Britain. Expertly produced by the band’s drummer, Spider Johnson, it is one of the most exhilarating, exciting debut albums of the year. Far too diverse to be labelled as simply “reggae”, it is a multi coloured, highly eccentric and quintessentially English musical piece; owing as much in spirit to The Kinks and Syd Barrett as Bob Marley and The Upsetters. If you want a bit of added sunshine in your life, buy this album! If you don’t, well….buy it anyway. You won’t be disappointed! Dubwiser are, quite simply, one of the most relevant bands in the country. Be sure to see them live next time they come to your area.
A Crack In Paradise is out now on, available on CD and MP3.