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Three Minute Heroes
on 8 February 2014
This multi-racial group from Coventry have endured, in a somewhat confusing variety of incarnations, for over 30 years. However it is widely agreed that their best work came in the late 1970's and early 1980's when - with their charismatic lead singer Pauline Black - they were as Chris White observes in his bland sleeve note, "briefly one of the most important purveyors of reggae/ska music". This cheap 16 track collection - that comes clothed in a two-tone sleeve featuring the Walt Jabsco icon - sensibly focusses on that period. It boasts their handful of relatively successful singles of that time: 'On My Radio'; 'Three Minute Hero'; 'Missing Words', and 'The Whisper'. These stand-out tunes marry brittle new-wave melodies, brisk skanking beats and edgily-delivered vocals to some pretty solid song-writing. They are backed here by some competent cuts from their well-liked debut Too Much Pressure (1980), such as the title track and 'Murder'. Greatest Hits also has The Selecter doffing their fedoras to their influences with versions of ska classics by Justin Hinds' 'Carry Go Bring Home' and The Pioneers' 'Time Hard', and their knowingly daft 'James Bond' instrumental.
But the rest of what is featured here - culled mainly from the band's disappointing second LP Celebrate the Bullet (1981) - shows why The Selecter didn't have had the lasting impact that their more successful contemporaries The Specials and Madness had: many of their own songs, such as 'Bristol and Miami' and 'Bomb Scare', haven't aged well. This somewhat inaptIy-titled Greatest Hits could maybe have been improved by the inclusion of their debut side 'The Selecter' - the instrumental on the B-side of The Specials' 45 'Gangsters' - which created the initial excitement in the band. However in their disorganised back catalogue this 1996 compilation remains the best available account of these three minute heroes.