True Stepping

So, the garage underground, or the Top Ten? Well, why not both at once?

We could talk of supping expensive champagne in expensive clubs. We could blather about diamonds, Beamers, and Bo! Selectas! until the Ayia Napia sun goes down. But the real pulse of the British garage movement isn’t to be found in these opulent clichés. It’s there in every Friday night gridlock, every Saturday morning TV show, every Sunday afternoon waveband. And it’s right here on ‘True Stepping’ – the first genuinely proud-to-be-mainstream UK Garage long-player.

Reprazent stalwart Krust was probably thinking about True Steppers when he recently sneered at fickle drum’n’bass producers turning to UK Garage because “it’s been blown up by the media as the next big thing”. Talk about missing the point. For the Steppers, dance music is in a permanent state of transition, of which UK Garage is the latest conclusion: Andy ‘Ice Cream’ Lysandrou began on pirate hip-hop radio, and later surfed the rave wave with proto-hardcore label Boogie Beat; Johnny Listners, meanwhile, made his name as breakbeat raver Jonny L, and circa ’97, was packing out the Metalheadz dancefloor with junglist anthem ‘Piper’.

‘True Stepping’, though, finds these two old-timers eager to hit paydirt. Showcasing a crew of rising young talents, bona fide pop starlets, and, er, Brian Harvey, the Steppers’ debut is an expert blend of punchy Stateside R&B, bottom-heavy junglist bass, and celebrity pop nous. It’s all there on the excellent ‘Out Of Your Mind’, starring Posh Spice and chunky [I]Smash Hits TV[/I] star Dane Bowers: in concept, tacky as fuck; in practice, a damn sight more classy than the derivative Yank rip-off that’s the new Spice effort.

Elsewhere, the Brian Harvey track, ‘True Step Tonight’ – complete with warbling text-message tone – might be the ideal jump-start for an ailing career. Only when the Steppers play up their ‘gritty’ underground credentials does it all go arse-shaped. [I]’Club For Clowns’ [/I]features some fella called [I]The Enforcer[/I], whose gruff delivery – “‘Ere, George, there’s a fuckin’ clown on the door, claimin’ iz name’s on the list” – is too close to shitty [I]Lock, Stock…[/I] caricature for comfort.

So, the garage underground, or the Top Ten? Well, why not both at once? These two dance veterans have made a great, innovative dance record. It’s just that now, they’ve got love for the High Streets.

Louis Pattison