Reach For The Ska!

The Untouchables and the, rather good, Makin’ Time reviewed in the NME, 9 November, 1985.

Reach For The Ska!
Glasgow Strathclyde University

Fun. D’you remember fun? Fun is when you get all dressed up in your favourite fashion on a Saturday night, is buying drinks that don’t need a bank loan and come without straws, dancing the night away to two good bands – luxury! Couple all that with ridiculous youth, a hallful of even younger mods (looking smart), R&B, irrepressible energy, a bit of nostalgia, good tunes and manic movement and you have…well one of the best gigs I’ve been to this year, at least.
Makin’ Time are already known to this audience through their excellent debut album ‘Rhythm And Soul’, an R&B/early soul/’60s thing that singer Mark Gounden mention repeatedly during the set in the hope someone might buy it. One of the nice things about Makin’ Time is that they look like they need the money rather than looking as though they’ve been sitting in a rehearsal studio for the last two years. You can afford to be shambolic (and they are, making more mistakes than there are extra-thin ties in here) if you’ve got both a total lack of pretention and good songs on your side, like ‘Take All You Can Get’, ‘Gotta Move’; and ‘Feels Like It’s Love’. Gounden looks like an even more nervous Lloyd Cole with a heavy ’60s fashion fetish, but then that’s endearing too.
Makin’ Time do little wrong in my book, not even by dashing through a ramshackle version of soul classic ‘Show Me’. Maybe they’ll spend some of the money on guitar lessons, maybe they won’t, who cares?
The Untouchables look so cool it could almost convince you that there is hope for the American music industry yet; so slick they could make your head spin they somehow manage to completely avoid the sickly cabaret that some US bands drown in. The Untouchables haven’t minded showing their ska roots, but they look more influenced by Madness. The bassist wears a bandana half-way down his nose, the guitarist poses endlessly, Jerry Miller (the tall one with the wacky glasses) towers comically over Chuck Askerneese (the little one with the rasta locks) – it’s the all-singing, all-dancing Untouchables and even the trumpet player, Anthong Brewster (the cute one), steps up to sing ‘What’s Going On?’.
Even if they’re funnier than most, The Untouchables aren’t a joke band, but when they’re being serious it is to the point of the ridiculous – as in ‘Future On My Mind’, a song about “the future of the world” with classic lyrics like “I smile at you/You smile at me/But everybody’s pissed/What are we living for?”
The thing to take most seriously is the breadth of their musical influence. They are not, as might be implied by ‘Free Yourself’ or ‘City Gent’, simply a ska band, dipping as they do into soul (‘Soul Together’), reggae and rap. It’s all a glut of fun, humour and ability and the assembled sharp dressers make pigs of themselves.
After a dancefloor-breaking version of ‘I Spy For The FBI’ it almost seemed that they could do no better – until they re-appeared for a bash at ‘I’m Not Your Stepping Stone’. Too right, there isn’t anyone to touch them.

Andrea Miller

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