Capitol 1212 with Earl 16 - Love Will Tear Us Apart [7-inch] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Capitol 1212 with Earl 16

Love Will Tear Us Apart [7-inch] (2020)

Happy People

Well, here’s an interesting combo. Reggae veteran Earl Sixteen has been cranking out roots meets early dancehall for 40 years now and he’s always good- but he rises to the sublime when backed by a producer of equal power- the seminal Reggae Sound album cut with Mikey Dread is proof of this. So, it’s a nice little surprise that Earl has linked up with Scottish electro reggae/grime/dance duo Capitol 1212 for a leftfield cover.

Instead of covering something more expected like a soul track, and instead of doing the Massive Attack thing and chop up vocals over dance beats, Capitol introduced Earl to Joy Division and the artists did a version of that band’s biggest number. It works wonders.

Capitol 1212 do the newish thing of re-creating a sort of roots reggae sound with purely digital instruments, making the backing track have the icy feel, as with the early On-U soundsystem stuff. Roots thrives in the human element, so when that is removed, it can make a track sound thin- but here, it actually recreates the hard to capture distanced, icy paranoid of Joy Division. Also, it one of the few covers of JD that is actually really good- no one can copy the dreary magic of JD, so instead of doing that, Capitol 1212 take the band’s goth-ish ethos and apply it to a low, rumbling reggae track.

And then comes in earl Sixteen. Earl makes this tune magical. Frankly, I think he sees what no one has seen before… Ian Curtis was famous for his unique, tenor rumble that was almost monotone. Almost paradoxically, Earl listened to this closely and somehow picked up the underlying soul in the original version. On his own take, he channels 70s Gamble and Huff and does a gentle, poignant croon over the heaviness, warping the song back a full decade. That is, whereas Joy Division was heavy, blunt power, Earl adds a fragility to the track that highlights his skill and JDs. It’s a master strike.

Often that corny line that “all music is connected” is thrown around. Sometimes that concept seems a little pedestrian, but here, Earl and Capitol connect three disparate genres like they are the same exact thing… or if they don’t connect them, they certainly find the singular, underlying magic that runs throw all music, and moreso, artistic expression.