Dub Pistols – Speakers and Tweeters
Release Date: May 6, 2008
Record Label: Defend Music
I have always been somewhat conflicted on the idea of featuring bands and songs in video games – on one hand, it is kind of the ultimate sellout move, but on the other, there are few better ways to reach a captive audience. After all, not too many people play Playstation with their tube on mute. The Tony Hawk games really revolutionized this practice, brought it mainstream, and revealed the sort of potential this new age marketing held. I can’t really decry the practice, since it struck gold with me, as THPS2 introduced me to the Dub Pistols and their infectious hit, “Cyclone.”
From there, most would have pegged the UK troupe to strike it rich, but after a rocky record deal with Geffen (seems to be a common theme with that label) that lead to a painfully long time before Six Million Ways to Live could drop, it was back to square one it seemed. Still, the group has retained a loyal fanbase both in London and elsewhere, and every one of us were curious to hear how they would come back – now almost a decade after the release of Point Blank.
If there is one thing that the Dub Pistols do well, it is diversity. While the group has always flirted with a myriad of genres, infusing sets of different musical styles into their trademark big beat sound, Speakers and Tweeters is the realization of that aspiration in full bloom. This is evident from the opening track, “Speed of Light,” where guest rapper Blade spits over hypnotic, spacey blips and a steady drum loop, and goes on from there. The raucous “Peaches” (a cover of The Stranglers’ tune) is an exercise in freewheeling summer fun, and then the band takes a 180 into more focused territory with the record’s title track. With a mid-paced but bombastic hip hop beat that could have been concocted by The Crystal Method, the cut is bolstered by tight rhymes and the hook’s unique vocal samples. The track is dripping with mainstream appeal, but is just off-kilter enough to keep it fresh on tons of repeat listens. Same goes for the brilliant “Running from the Thoughts” which somehow manages to massage hip hop, reggae, and ska into a cohesive package. The end result is catchy as hell, and devilishly artistic in its execution – the way the horns line up with the rapping, the addicting brass flourish in the hook, the persistent underscoring bass line – all ingredients for success.
From there, the album gets to be a bit of a mixed bag. DP’s cover of Blondie’s “Rapture” is filler at best, “Cruise Control” blip-happy beat sounds sloppier than the group is capable of, and “Gangsters” (yet another cover) is a snoozefest and is really rather unnecessary. Despite these stumbling blocks, the band still turns it up for a few more killer tracks. “Open” recalls ‘70s disco/funk with a modern twist, “You’ll Never Find” meanders into smoother roots reggae turf, “Something to Trust” is a venomous burner, and “Mach 10” is a slick cut that rolls with a simple ‘90s-style piano beat and a big hook, and “Gave You Time” is a really shockingly poignant closer to the record that is at once unexpected but surprisingly affecting.
Dub Pistols sure made us wait for their third studio album, but the quality of their offerings makes these intervals more than acceptable. At times, the lyrics can decay into a more elementary caliber than those of Six Million Ways to Live, but the overall package is just as enjoyable. If the Pistols would have nixed the excessive application of covers and taken the time to pencil in more of their own top-notch material, this album would rest dangerously close to greatness. As it stands, Speakers and Tweeters is an above average album that is well worth the purchase price, so why not pick it up in the middle of summer – roll those windows down, turn the bass up, and wait for Dub Pistols’ fourth.