PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 November, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 November, 2003, 12:00am



(Dep Star)

At last, UB40, Britain's sole survivor from its 1980s ska revival, has gone back to its more creative roots by writing original material instead of cheesily 'skanking up' old pop tunes.

The big exception to this, on an otherwise finely produced album, is Swing Low - yes, somehow the Birmingham black-and-white eight-piece was commissioned to do their take on England's anthem, in time for this year's Rugby World Cup in Australia, as a collaboration with musical collective United Colours Of Sound. Labelling it a 'bonus track' is somewhat questionable, but at least it's placed at the end where it can be avoided.

Drop On By and Everything Is Better Now are typically smooth reggae numbers that characterised this band's first two albums, and a couple of tracks veer into tasty UB40 dub terrain.

Social comment, always a feature in their early years, resurfaces on a few tracks here - nowhere more so than in Hand That Rocks The Cradle, which cheerily kicks off with, 'Holidays are comin'/ The kids are getting fat/ Put another penny in the corporation hat.'

The popularity of dancehall, which has dominated contemporary reggae for the past decade is acknowledged here, albeit in more laid-back fashion than the often machine-gun pace of the genre in Freestyler.

Otherwise, though the sound is credibly their own, there is not much innovation after all those fallow years, but the band proves it can still pen and play solidly.