The importance of being earnest. When Babar Luck sings “there’s no care in the community / just sweet disharmony / everybody’s out for themselves” its enough to make grown men go dewy-eyed, don Clash fatigues, and form The Others.
Babar Luck is a Pakistani-born Londoner, known to a select few as the one-time bass player from ‘ska-punk’ band King Prawn. With a beard of ZZ Top dimensions, Babar Luck has toured the length and breadth of his adopted home. Seer-like to some, Luck’s Care In The Community album is sequenced so that the arms-aloft banner-waving numbers hit first.
Well, there was a time when sounding like you meant it maaan was all you needed to rally the foot soldiers of vague seditionism. Since the slow death of the British Left, that is. Despite the ever-angry presence of agit-prop types like ADF, irony has long since been the default skin fitting for any muso types wishing to launch semi-political salvo’s in the general direction of the erstwhile establishment and the like. Care In The Community shows Babar Luck to have his shoes in both camps.
Despite the openers of 1 Luv (“Only the real people showed me love”) and the title-track (see above), the self-conscious sixth form sloganeering quickly runs its course to reveal a very familiar British sleight-of-hand with toughened-up love songs.
Though said to be Luck’s examination of English Folk, Care In The Community bares no traces of Denny, Jansch, Briggs or any other folk heavyweight you care to mention. Though Luck would doubtless claim otherwiseWeller, a luvved-up Billy Bragg, and the thoughtful end of The Faces have greater claims for inspiration.
The reflective My Friend Used To Be (a Madaxeman) and the freewheeling 101 Spiritual are worthy descendants of the late Ronnie Lane‘s letting-the-good-times-roll-while-they’re-still-here bonhomie. As oppose to caring about the community, the gentle Quarter To Eight taps into that all-British index of music-as-escape from the conformity of one’s roots (“won’t that be the perfect day/ when we make our getaway”).
Lo-fi in the sense of a lo-budget rather than an aesthetic, Care In The Community has some seriously deft touches. Alas, slipcased promo CD’s leave little room for long-running lists of credits so the delicate guitar-phrasings of The Fight Game and the woody Hammond glimmer of …(A Madaxeman) will have to be credited all to to Luck himself. Often less is more, but it would be interesting to hear Luck’s arranging skills fortified with something approaching cold cash.
Though Luck’s voice can sometimes veer between his highly rolled ‘r’s of his vernacular over to some less appealing Sting-style Jamaican annunciation, Luck entertains no ‘whitewashing’ of his culture, and there are enumerate signposts : Movies itself speaks of “Bollywood Dreams”.
Even though sounding bizarrely like The Coral, Raj Kapoor & Nargis sees Luck himself become the Bollywood film stars manque as a way of dreaming himself out of the East End. And having seen the Fowlers and the Mitchells, who can blame him?
If all of the above makes Care In The Community sound like a tangled piece of work, well that’s because it is. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Luck’s clearly a canny operator, but no matter how clever a pistol-sharp semi-rap like War Fever is, his polemical metier is found to be much surer when channelled through the metaphor and analogy of the album’s less direct targets.
If you’re not convinced though, have a listen to Inner Glow, the album’s lighter-in-the-air closer. And then ask yourself, just what is so funny about peace, love and understanding anyhow?