UB40 – C’est La Vie

Release Date: April 94
Chart Position: 37

My review reflects the mood that this UB40 offering has put me in. Shite. Ali Campbell and friends are really starting to annoy me now. This was more painful than anything they have produced in the past and in my insignificant opinnion, the worst of the worst. We may be bordering on Johnny Gill, Shabba and Ace of Base bad. So Bad I couldn’t even finish the song. It started sputtering and missfiring early on and unlike my D reg Ford Fiesta, it failed to recover simply coasted into the junk yard and would not restart. Time to move on and pack it in, this stuff is tired and old. There is a severe lack of quality about the recent UB40 tunes, I’m finding it hard to come up with different ways of saying UB40 produce shoddy, lazy videos and unimaginative, slow and boring songs.
Score: Put me down for a 1/10 – Neggae my arse – more like Sheggae (Shite Neggae)

They’re back. If Chaka Demus and Pliers are Kings of Neggae then UB’s have to be the wise old high priests and chief council. Having previously defeated the armies of New Romanticism and punk Conquering the UK with their infectious brand of 80’s Reggae.
Cest La Vie is a nice enough tune. If I’m honest It doesn’t evoke memories of Child hood and it must have passed me by first time around.  From that perspective its nice for me personally to mark something objectively for a change, a new piece of art that doesn’t just rip off an old soul cover.

Lets face it, they’ve produced better but they’ve also done a lot worse ( I cant help… One in ten with 808 etc). I like the beats, I like the voice sample at the beginning and I like the early introduction of the Trumpets. All solid. I’d even go as far as to say the piano loop reminds me of the riff from Step On’ by the Happy Monday’s. Always works for me.
Ali Campbell is on form yet again, sweet vocals tying up any loose ends and making this a tune I’m quite happy to listen to again and again. Well done lads, thanks for breaking up the monotony and giving this chart a breath of fresh air.
Lets keep this simple, this is a summer jam with a great brass section and a decent groove.  This is what this chart is all about.
Score: 7.5 out of 10 from me.

I’m going to keep this short, primarily due to the fact that I am getting frustrated continuing to write reviews about how disappointed I am in UB40’s latest effort. I have always considered my self a UB40 fan, however I am realising that I am actually not sure that I am anymore and they were simply an average band that released one or two good tracks in an era full of great tracks.
I think it sums the intro up well when I played it this morning and Nick Birmingham (who I am privileged to be on holiday with) charged into my room asking that I turn off my alarm as it was annoying him. When I explained to him what I was doing his response was ‘really, I thought UB40 were good??!?’.
Once you get over the slight annoyance of the intro it actually fills you with promise, only to again disappoint as the song goes round and round in seemingly never ending monotonous circle and it never gets going. I can’t help but think that I have said this before; but a very disappointing effort from a band I know can do better.
Score: 4/10 from me.

I have to say it’s been a great day;

  • my sofa’s have been delivered after a 3 week delay;
  • Got a retweet off David Quantick;
  • Tracksuit’s got a girlfriend, it’s having an adverse effect on our previously agreed SLAs but I can’t begrudge the bloke some happiness; and
  • The sun is out for the first time in 8 months.

What a perfect time for some neggae, although I’m not sure about having to sit through another advert for the wrongly named ‘Lovable Rogues’, ‘Affected Bell Ends’ would be more accurate. We immediately kick off with Eric Clapton on drums in the studio putting on a Brummie accent and asking Ali ‘what we doing then?’ I’m afraid the answer is nearly 5 minutes of MOR neggae. I’ll give them credit, it’s not a cover which is rare for the Hot 90 and lyrically is trying to make a social statement as it covers the following scenarios;

  • A woman selling her baby for $20;
  • Brother killing brother;
  • Something about a dead husband and his body being stolen;

I didn’t realise Dudley was so rough personally and can only give credit to Lenny Henry for emerging out of this living hellhole with cheeky grin and sense of humour intact.
So lyrically it’s a bit worthy, which is a return to their earlier career but the difference being songs like ‘One in Ten’ were good, this isn’t. I can’t help thinking this song represents the Yowbs becoming out of touch with the neggae scene, it’s the summer of dread lads, we want CJ  Lewis berking about in an underpass, not worthy political sentiment over lifeless production. The production has some standard yowb touches, nice horns, great vocals but the beat’s plodding and there are some frankly dreadful sound effects in the background. There have been numerous better songs with this title by various artists including B*witched and Robbie Nevil. Not much to say about the video, it’s the Yowbs in the studio with a distinct lack of marijuana, which is the root of the problem in my opinion.
This mark is more for the idea than the execution, chill out a bit lads, Tony Blair’s about to lead us into a brave new world, what could possibly go wrong?
Score: 5/10

April 1994. The salad days of Yam be 40. Worldwide smash hit off the back of Sliver. Sellout US tour.  As much happy baccy as they could lay their hands on. Of course it would all go downhill later with bankruptcy, brother-on-brother fighting and New Zealands got talent, but let’s not dwell on that shit.
C’est La Vie is a fine track from their Negaae mega-long-player Promises and Lies. The boys frankly spaffed five singles off this record, and us Brits were happy to swallow it all down.  The ‘d’you think they’ll buy it again?’ attitude is definitely evident in the video; basically just footage of the lads rehearsing pre-concert, riffing, berking about and if I know my yoobs – about to pick up.
There is nothing shambolic about the music though, which is a vacuum-packed, jiffy-sealed fragrant superbud of a neggae banger. The beats bounce in with scratched “Hey boy!”  samples, all put together by our very own Neggae Young Player of the Year, Bitty Mclean. Bongos and bass drive the tune along with intent, and floating across it all is the familiar and soothing vox of the brothers Campbell (sort it out yowse too! Life is too short!)
Listen closely, and you’ll realize that like Murder She Wrote, C’est La Vie pays homage to probably my favourite reggae riddim, Bam Bam. In fact, listen to Sister Nancy’s take on it, sing the “What a Bam Bam” bit to yourself, then sing the UB40 “C’est La Vie” chorus. It’s quite satisfying.
I’m not saying the Yoobs copied Chakademus and Pliers; far from it actually. This LP came out before MSW, so for me it just goes to show how well versed UB40 were in the classics of the reggae canon.
Lyrically the song offers up some deep observations my friend, with Ali sermonizing on human nature and some of the stranger aspects of life they had witnessed while musically globetrotting.  Women selling babies, soldiers stealing husbands, shit ain’t right. Sometimes all you can do to avoid the madness is inhale the vapes, eat your curly-wurly and drink your Strawberry Nesquik. It’s the UB40 life.
Score: 7/10



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