Sounds November 13, 1982
Mi Cyaan Believe It
(Island ILPS 9717)
From the steaming bowels of Jonestown, Kingston, mixed up via Blackbeard’s Studio 80 in London, ricochet the gleaming words and flexi-time voice of dub poet Michael Smith on an album that’s stronger than a shrug but softer than a shriek.
Ever since hearing the title track in single form a while back on the LKJ label, I’ve looked forward to a fully fledged Smith outing.
So it was one of those rush to the turntable jobs when I had my hands on a copy of the vinyl under scrutiny. Maybe my expectations were too high, but while ‘Mi Cyaan Believe It’ triggers intellectual and emotional turmoil, it never manages to move the body.
This doesn’t appear to be the fault of Smith – the poems, all nine of them, are reality unhinged and brimming with observational arrows. Rather the complacent ambience of the record lies in the music which underpins the whiplash words.
Let’s distil further: The actual melodies are adventurous, a holiday away from one thump drum’n’bass lines. The players , Aswad’s drummie Angus Gaye (get back to fighting fitness soon!) and ivory stroker Tony Robinson, the sadly neglected Rico, erstwhile Talisman Paget King et al tread many new musical horizons.
The residue: The production at the hands of Dennis Bovell (responsible for the ever inventive bass motifs) and LKJ is simply too damn cosy. It’s squeaky clean when it should be full of roaring grit.
Moreover, ‘dub poet’ is a bit of a misnomer for Michael on this outing since there’s nothing on ‘Mi Cyaan Believe It’ which remotely resembles the echo-mind-loop of the genre.
Consequently, it’s Smith’s solo spots – the situation setting ‘Black ‘n’ White’ and the ever stunning title track, which harbour the greatest spine-shivering quotient.
The poet has a finely honed sense of intonational attack which is completely his own. You can feel how much he loves to have his wicked way with words, rolling them around his mouth, spitting and slurring.
I hesitate to haul out some stanzas for review. Search them out for yourself because, despite all the reservations above, ‘Mi Cyaan Believe It’ is worth a lot of your time.