15
Apr 03

The Heptones – “Make Up Your Mind” b/w “Why Must I?”

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 651 views

One of the big problems with fads is that they generally do burn out the general public – even the general hipster public – to a specific sound, which is a shame when the victims are records as beautiful as this one. Will admit to not having listened to it in a while – I’m making CD-Rs of my favorite songs right now…the full list is here on an ILX thread – but hearing it yesterday I’m reminded of why it was the track which really “put me over” when it came to reggae. (The province of stinky hippies with a clutch of Wailers records, at least if you had just recently left American academia.) A fairly unremarkable roots track on the surface, not devotional except in the sense that all roots is devotional. But no cornbread and collie opacity, no shouting down Babylon. It’s a love (lost) song, and as such it’s easy to see why it struck such a chord: throw it up against any moody, mopey indie or pop record you wish and it wouldn’t sound too out of place.

In it’s way it reminds me of a Jamaican Smiths or Go-Betweens. Except the Heptones don’t mope. They lope, they glide, they hymn the heavens down with their song, but they do not languish unwashed in their beds wondering Why She Hasn’t Come Back. Towards health and efficiency.

The dub (I always forget which is the dub and which is the vocal) is hardly Lee Perry’s most radical production, but that seems slightly beside the point. (At least he doesn’t throw some mooing cows in there for us mere mortals to wonder why.) He abstracts the sound of the original, gutting the vocal and throwing glints of trace memories back at us, in order to make the pain that much more keenly felt. It’s not particularly heavy, or particularly dread. But the “collapsing chambers” here are the hearts. (Easy to find – even in the pre-mp3 sense – on the Perry anthology Arkology, a tricky document which alternates stretches of brilliance and tedium…six versions of “Police & Thieves” in a row.)

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