's debut album set the band decisively apart from its British colleagues. This was not, by any stretch of the imagination, either pop-reggae or lovers rock. Nor was it the kind of dreamy Rasta reggae or art-for-art's sake dub that was popular at the time. Though the subtly jazzy swing that would later become explicit was already informing Steel Pulse
's groove, the band's first album seemed not at all interested in generating anything like a party atmosphere. Handsworth Revolution
is about politics first and religion second, with a quick nod to the dance ("Sound System") and another to the herb ("Macka Splaff") and not a single love lyric to be found anywhere. This gives the music a certain intellectual urgency, and the band's instrumental virtuosity is impressive given its youth and relatively inexperience. But it also makes for a rather dry listening experience; other than "Ku Klux Klan" and the gorgeous "Prodigal Son," there's not much to hold onto here, melodically speaking -- and even those two songs sound dry in comparison to the band's subsequent work. Still, there's a solidity to these tunes, a sheer tensile strength, that makes them compelling in their own Spartan way. Recommended.