Steel Pulse’s 1978 debut, Handsworth Revolution, is a reggae classic, which captured the second-generation British black experience with songs written in Birmingham amid the rise of the far-right National Front. Four decades later, with obvious parallels, the band’s first album in 15 years focuses on today, with themes ranging from human trafficking to child prostitution to climate change. The band’s music has been subtly retooled, too. The roots rhythms of old Pulse grooves such as Ku Klux Klan have given way to slightly poppier, brassier tunes and even an occasional rap. Only frontman David Hinds and keyboard player Selwyn Brown remain from the punk era line-up that shared stages with the Stranglers, but the singer’s songwriting and Bob Marleyesque vocals have lost none of their plaintively galvanising qualities as he addresses social justice. Rize is a big, pounding call to arms. World Gone Mad is aghast at the state of things. Don’t Shoot tunefully responds to police brutality. Stop You Coming and Come and the horn-fired Cry Cry Blood are trademark, gently militant Steel Pulse and No Satan Side is a peach of a tune. The themes can seem a little obvious at times, but the 17 songs are delivered with sincerity, passion and infectious positivity. Nations of the World calls for global unity, while a cover of Steve Winwood’s Higher Love – cheekily reimagined/subtitled Rasta Love – cements a rousing comeback.
Dave Simpson is a Guardian music critic and author