UB40 - Who you fighting for?

2006-03-30 00:02

Career highlights: click here to learn more about UB40

Who You Fighting For? sounds, well, exactly like UB40. It's the same smiling, old fashioned reggae pop that has flowed endlessly from your radio for so many years. Remember "King"? "Breakfast in bed"? "One in ten"? "Kingston town"? and more? 'Course you do.

Many people who fancied themselves as more "hardcore" reggae fans dismissed this group out of hand as too white, too accessible, too popular, and too straight. 'All their songs sound the same', they complained.

And they're right. All UB40s songs do sound somewhat the same. However, they're recently dabbled in dancehall (thank goodness, you can't really tell) and Who You Fighting For? makes some effort to introduce variety.

The charming "Reasons" cleverly incorporates Bollywood pop vocals and percussion, without sounding like they're trying too hard to update their sound. They also tackle five covers, among them Lennon and McCartney's "I'll be on my way", and a soulful take on Winfred Lovett's "Kiss and say goodbye".

But overall, they're the same cheeky, kindly boys with good intentions, spreading a cautious anti-war message as earnestly as they spread anti-Thatcherism messages way back when. They make their point not only through their song lyrics, but also in the album packaging, which shows ordinary people holding the album name in placards on the front.

And on the inner sleeve, world leaders from Left to Right: Mandela, Bin Laden, Churchill, Mugabe and Bush hold the same placards. It's one of those album covers you can spend a bit of time musing over, wondering why Mandela's holding Who (World Health Organisation maybe?). Mostly, they leave you to draw your own conclusions as to how they feel about these individual leaders. But they say "You do the shooting - they do the looting / You do the killing - they do the drilling / You do the dying - they do the lying".

Social consciousness in pop can be a bit of a drag, but UB40 have always mixed music and message masterfully, by keeping the love song quotient consistently higher than their soothingly vague political commentary.

As with their classic "One in Ten", a song about the unemployment rate, they're saying 'rough, innit?' not 'do something about it!' (Speaking of which... remember when 10% was a high unemployment rate?)

Yep, a large part of your response to this album might be nostalgia. But it's not unwarranted nostalgia. Come on, forgive them for "Red Red Wine" (they didn't even write it, Neil Diamond did!), and the lesser known student commune version "Green Green Bane". Forgive yourself those embarrassing memories of singing it with your arm around your best friend after a bottle and a half of Tassies. And let the good times begin again.

- Jean Barker


"...the sheer freshness and vitality of the music after all this time can't be denied."
- Alwyn Turner for BBC

UB40 have been going forever. Well, since 1978. Who You Fighting For? is their 23rd album. It's a return to their original sound, and is the work of the same eight members who started UB40 and launched a hit career with their first single "King" off their first album, Signing Off.

Rob 2005/07/16 10:32 PM
Mr UB 40 NO
Nichole 2005/07/19 10:25 AM
UB40 I remember some of my friends thinking this band was awfully cute, but I thought they were irritating as hell. on the other hand, they weren't as bad as many bands at the time and they still aren't as bad as many bands now. I think they are actually quite cynical though because their albums DO all sound the same.
johan roux 2005/08/05 12:15 PM
ub 40 very impressive not as good as the old songs r kelly
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