Reggae is, ultimately, political music. Sure, it's about good times and fun in the sun, but in the best historical reggae there is always an element of worldly criticism. I mean, back when you were in college, did you ever put the bong down long enough to listen to what Bob Marley was actually saying? Redemption Song and Buffalo Soldier are two of his more overtly political tunes on Legend, so pretty much everyone has heard them.
Early UB40 was very political. Consider that their name is that of the British
government form for unemployment benefits, and that they took this name during
a period of rampant unemployment (aka, The Thatcher Era). However, for a while
(the 1990s), they got complacent and concentrated on doing covers. It was enjoyable
stuff, but nothing from that era packed the punch of such early songs as Tyler.
Well, the complacency of the 1990s is gone, and UB40 are pissed off again. Just look at the title track to this disc, which includes the lines "You do the shooting, they do the looting". Yeah, go boys. Tell 'em.
The thing is, being politically angry is good for the band and for their music.
On Who You Fighting For?, UB40 are more vibrant than they have
been in almost 20 years, as if now that their passions are stirred up,
they are really feeling the music again. I, for one, love it. This is a great
disc, and can stand up against their early classics as far as i am concerned.
But music with a political message, however angry, is not inherently good. It takes a great beat, loping melodies, and some interesting vocals to really make a good album, and Who You Fighting For? has all of that. Oh, and horns. The horn section of UB40 hasn't sounded so great in years, really adding a nice element to most of the songs here.
Aside from the title track, there are several other great tunes here. Bling Bling is a Jamaican rap tune, with a great scattered beat, happy horns, and nice deep bass. It is like an updated Rat In Mi Kitchen, and really works.
Plenty More is a lovely political dub tune. Over a deep bass riff, they sing "There is plenty more where that came from / 5 megatons of oblivion / sent with love from the pentagon". Great stuff.
UB40 expand their music palette on Reasons, adding a bit of Indian vocals and drumming on the chorus. This bit of Bollywood works great in the song, combining with the deep UB40 bass and staccato drumming.
And continuing with their strategy to cover as many songs as possible in a reggae format, UB40 include a cover of the Beatles' I'll Be On My Way, putting a slow loping beat with those great Lennon-McCartney lyrics for a fun slow tune.
Overall, i am sure that fans of reggae and or UB40 will enjoy this album. However, don't let the genre scare you off. UB40 make fun music, and this time around they are really "feeling it". Who You Fighting For? is a good, solid record, with much to offer.