In 1981 I walked into HMV in High Street, Sunderland only to be enveloped by a beautiful noise (no, not Neil Diamond!). I walked over to the two assistants at the counter and asked for the details of this wonderful lilting tune and was told by one of the men that it was a new single by Scritti Politti, called ‘The sweetest girl’. Then in an aside typical of record shop assistants everywhere (designed both to put down the customer and simultaneously show off their own knowledge), he said to his colleague ‘It’s nowhere near as good as the old Scritti’.
I purchased the single on the spot and it’s still one of my all-time favourites, the B-side, ‘Lions after slumber‘ is a cracker too. It’s a list song, and as you may already know I’m a list-song aficionado. Both of these tunes feature in different versions on our cassette of the day, Scritti Politti’s appropriately titled ‘Songs to remember’.
Opening up one of the best side 1s ever recorded with a lovely, tinny drum roll is the classic ‘Asylums in Jerusalem’, followed by ‘A slow soul’, ‘Jacques Derrida’ (released as a double A-side with the album’s opener), ‘Lions after slumber’. The first side closes with another fantastic single, ‘Faithless’, complete with another of my favourite song traits, the ‘robot voice’.
Side 2 understandably struggles to maintain the standard of side 1. I’ve always been a bit unconvinced by ‘Sex’ (There’s your headline for the Daily Mail serialisation). ‘Rock-A-Boy Blue’ and ‘Getting’ Havin’ & Holdin’’ would have been stand-out tracks on all other Scritti Politti albums – here they blend into the background ever so slightly, although ‘Rock-A-Boy Blue’ does have a fantastic double bass solo.
This all leaves us where we started, ‘The sweetest girl’. It can be a mistake to leave the biggest track until last. Here it works perfectly.
N.B. This album does contain reggae perpetrated by white people. In this case (but not many others) there’s no reason to be afraid.
Label – Rough Trade
Year – 1982