Coventry Colosseum

Their core message is agitate, educate, [I]celebrate[/I]. And pop music doesn't get much more subversive than that...

Take away the rants about racist oppression, asylum seekers, unjust imprisonment and global capitalism and what do ADF add up to? [a]Chumbawamba[/a] with jungle beats? The Levellers with turntables? Mark Thomas on a ragga tip?

Bollocks. Here in the birthplace of The Specials, ADF are rocking the punky reggae party of a lifetime. You don’t need to understand Deeder‘s Jamaicanised polemic to appreciate the flame-thrower fury of mongrelised mash-ups like ‘Real Great Britain’ or ‘Naxalite’, or even more measured statements on race and class like the elegant cut-up monologues ‘Colour Line’ and ‘Committed To Life’.

If the 2-Tone label was active today, ADF would be their figureheads. Indeed, there are several moments tonight where the band’s frontline recall The Specials at their ramshackle gobshite peak, notably during the pogo-mental marathon of ‘Taa Deem’, which weds Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to speedcore junglist chatter. The Specials sang “Free Nelson Mandela”, ADF have ‘Free Satpal Ram’, a propulsive polemic which goes BOOM! and shakes the room, tipping beer glasses from tables with its bass vibrations. Still their best tune. Still better than anything Rage Against The Machine will ever write.

But the Foundation are not good [I]because [/I]of their skin colour, in the same way that [I]Goodness Gracious Me [/I]isn’t a load of unfunny toss merely because its cast are mostly Asian. White liberal racism is as stupid and illogical as any other form. ADF simply rock, full stop. And more and more they are foregrounding the euphoric party aspect of their community-driven agenda. The politics isn’t buried, of course, but it’s the sheer visceral wallop and glorious dancehall bounce which increasingly stand out.

Thus ‘Riddim I Like’ might sample Benjamin Zephaniah, but it could be Bentley Rhythm Ace at their most splifftastic. And ‘Scaling New Heights’ is eight minutes of dubtronic orchestral ska, returning the lysergic Eastern wails of psychedelia back to their roots. The Foundation are starting to mix pleasure with business as never before. It’s an improvement, a progression.

There are still some lulls in ADF‘s soundclash assault, odd moments where the dynamism flags and clumsy axe-wank bluster prevails. But fewer than ever. When they stumble, it is mostly out of a commendable desire to smash wanky notions of rock-star cool and [I]connect [/I]on a human level. This is not a [a]Chumbawamba[/a] show, all rhetoric and soul-sucking agit-pop theory. ADF make you want to dance, not fight. Their core message is agitate, educate, [I]celebrate[/I]. And pop music doesn’t get much more subversive than that.