I’m probably somewhat typical of American music fans in terms of my exposure to reggae. Which is to say it’s been more or less limited almost exclusively to Bob Marley, and more specifically the Legend album, and Eddie Grant’s 1982 hit single “Electric Avenue”. I never got any further than that, despite the fact that I was blown away by the cassette copy of Legend I’d bought specifically for a road trip from Seattle to Sedona to San Francisco and then back to Seattle that I took with my buddy John around 1991 or 1992. We played that thing over and over on that trip, or at least we did until the car stereo crapped out just outside of San Francisco and we had to do the rest of the 15 hour drive with no music. The only entertainment for the rest of the trip was the passenger reading stories out of Weekly World News out loud in an effort to keep us both entertained and, more importantly, keep the driver awake.
Thus far my few forays into the world of dub have all been albums that all feature one artist. I came across Chainstore Massacre while digging through the healthy reggae/dub section at FeeLit Records in San Diego and was liked what I saw – a double album featuring 15 tracks, all by different artists. Since it was a used copy with a pretty beat up cover, the price was right and I figured I owed it to myself to broaden my limited dub knowledge.
I don’t even know how to intelligently talk about dub in terms of its various sub-genres, history, and what is considered good or bad. I’m basically a blank dub slate. What I can say, though, is I like the song selection On-U Sound included on Chainstore Massacre (and points for the album name as well). It includes tracks that are heavily DJ/electronic, some with a clear reggae sound like Junior Delgado’s “Fully Legalize,” some with female vocals such as “My Love I Bring” by Skip McDonald featuring Sinead O’Connor, and even one song that sounds more hip hop than anything else, “25 O’Clock” by Ri Ra. The album covers the gamut and that makes it more enjoyable to listen to (at least to me) because it provides a great mix while still being loosely held together by the DJ/electronic vibe that runs through all the songs. Some of the other dub albums I’ve listened to sound more like one long song with only minor variations along the way, so the variety is refreshing.
If you’re looking to dip your toe into the dub pool for the first time Chainstore Massacre is a great starting point. It’ll give you exposure to a lot of different artists and styles within the genre and might help point the way toward some artists who you want to explore a little deeper depending on what you like. If you can find it, and the price is right, get yourself a copy.