SHUT UP & DANCE
Got ‘Em Locked
[I](Shut Up & Dance)[/I]
If anyone has a claim to the crown of absolute godfathers of British dance music it’s Shut Up & Dance. In their heyday, PJ and Smiley scored Top 20 hits with records about crack and their native Hackney, practically inventing big beat, hardcore and jungle single-handedly years before anyone thought about giving them names. Fret not, however. The accolade [I]SOTW[/I] is not dispensed lightly and this is no respectful retro pat on the back for rave’s grandaddies. On the contrary, ‘Got ‘Em Locked’ works simply because it – like all their greatest tunes – is so timely, so exceptionally 1998, it could be every single fantastic dance tune released this year all rolled up into one.
There’s the tinny surf guitar from ‘The Rockafeller Skank’ – almost, anyway – needling the intro and stitching the irresistibly perfect pop of the chorus together. The perky dub skank of Lionrock’s ‘Rude Boy Rock’, trampled underfoot by rampaging nu-breakbeat drums. The swollen, heady bass of a million ragga records played on preposterously large, hand-built sound systems. The snarling rap attitude from Run DMC’s ‘It’s Like That’ – minus the crappy house – and, naturally, the sound of someone unsuccessfully trying to tune in a long wave radio. A subtle reminder that while others may be raking in the fruits of whatever maverick musical visions they planted nearly ten years ago, they can still do it better than anyone else.
With dance music reduced to cheap stunts like releasing knocked-off second-hand hits (Spacedust’s shameless, erm, ‘homage’ to Bob Sinclar’s ‘Gym Tonic’ being a prime example), it’s no wonder some of electronica’s sharpest minds are turning their backs on the whole culture. York’s Sand, for instance, used to make weird but always wondrous techno as Germ. Faced with restrictive attitudes and widespread indifference, they chucked in their samplers, strapped on guitars and started making Black Sabbath-do-Krautrock voodoo music like ‘Spell’ and its even more superior flip track, ‘Terminus’. High praise, even before we consider Sand have a (male) trombone player called Hillary and, from the sound of this, worship Satan before every meal. As gritty as it gets.
And if dance music is rotting around us, make no mistake who infected it in the first place. People like Leeds duo Dope Smugglaz, who take delight in telling us they have “large beards and look like a fat Kraftwerk” in their accompanying press release and decided, without prior consultation, that what the world really needed was a remake of the theme from Grease. Cheers for that, boys, but we’d rather have our toenails removed very slowly and painfully than ever listen to another novelty big beat record.
Just as indie is full of wannabe celebs who’d turn up to the opening of an envelope, so dance music has those who’d readily sample the sound of it being torn open and remix it into an epic ten-minute ambient-dub ‘experience’. Germany’s Dirk Dresselhaus, aka Schneider TM, is one such bloke, appearing on every other dubious remix project going and generally spreading himself thinner than an anorexic supermodel’s ankles. ‘Masters’, thankfully, shows why he got invited in the first place. Basically a house record wrapped up in the cosy warmth of Stereolab, this is precisely the sort of downright human-sounding machine music Kraftwerk should be plotting for their return.
It’s hard to imagine exactly who, apart from devotees of remixer Fatboy Slim that is, will actually buy the follow-up to ‘Intergalactic’ – given that every home in the land surely has at least one copy of ‘Hello Nasty’ by now. That said, the temptation to purchase any record with breakdancing Labradors on its sleeve is fairly hard to overcome, particularly when you know the buoyant playfulness of the Beasties is waiting for you inside. Even so, ‘Body Movin” has an undeniable air of second singleness about it, being both more accessible but nowhere near as enduring as its predecessor. Bring on that Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry collaboration forthwith, we say.
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THE JON SPENCER BLUES EXPLOSION
Great news. Jon Spencer has decided to stop sounding like Shakin’ Stevens after a couple of bottles of Wild Turkey and a few Cramps records. Whether his latest vocal incarnation – a kind of castrato Lou Reed – is any less comical, of course, is another question. And, alas, while ‘Magical Colors’ wants to be the Velvets with Elvis singing – no bad idea, either – it ends up closer to Showaddywaddy covering Rocket From The Crypt in a smelly working man’s club. Shaky stuff after all, then.
The last single, surely, from ‘When I Was Born For The 7th Time’, as overhauled by Heavenly hopeful Schizoid Man, Uptight from Vienna and – most awesomely – by New York Technics acrobat Rob Swift, who perfectly taps into the link between the ‘Shop’s slouching funk and his own slack hip-hop. Check ‘The Ablist’, meanwhile, for further evidence of the man’s ability to convert a handful of scratchy old charity shop records into prime block-rocking material.
[I](Blanco Y Negro)[/I]
Simply confirms what we basically knew all along, namely that Catatonia are Sleeper with a bad Welsh karaoke Bjvrk on vocals. Even if that one with Space was OK. A misty-eyed ballad dripping in glossy over-production, ‘Game On’ boasts all of the following: the glib arrogance of Alanis Morissette, the faux-kooky ‘charm’ of Alisha’s Attic, the puny wimpishness of Belle & Sebastian. Oh, and a live version of ‘Mulder & Scully’ you’d have to be a Buddhist to tolerate. Game off, more like.
3 COLOURS RED
If records were faces, this one would have several warts, a broken nose and the consistency of a welder’s bench. Ugly, ugly rock, laden with lines like, “Lies/That paralyse/Don’t step on me/Look at your skies” that outstrip even Cast in the nonsensical stakes. And with a chorus that makes Bon Jovi sound sophisticated, this just feels like a desperate and undignified lunge at metal-indie crossover incapable of conjuring up nothing more glamorous than the image of Reading Festival when it’s wet and miserable. Unlikely to ‘Paralyse’ anyone, except perhaps with sheer boredom.
[I](Botchit & Scarper)[/I]
‘Robo-pop’ they call it, and the name says it all. It spans everything from Kylie pretending to be a computer typeface on ‘German Bold Italic’, her startlingly fine collaboration with Deee-Lite’s Towa Tei, to Christopher Just’s ingenious remix of Pulp’s ‘Party Hard’. Taking in, along the way, dancefloor delights like ‘Freq-A-Zoid’ by Peckham’s Darin McFaddyn, aka Freq Nasty. Graced with a vocodered vocal telling “20,000 robots” to “report to the dancefloor”, what it lacks in biting social comment or indeed anything approaching common sense, it more than adequately compensates for by sounding not unlike Daft Punk bludgeoning two copies of some ancient electro record to death.
The Wrestler EP
[I](Cup Of Tea)[/I]
The dance music/wrestling interface has not been a particularly busy one recently, something south Londoners Slick Sixty aim to correct with the cartoon scratching, ‘Kowalski’ beats and blazing Casiotones of ‘The Wrestler’. The connection, presumably, is that, like Giant Haystacks, while this record doesn’t mind being a bit silly at times, it’s simultaneously cool enough to squash you without breaking into a sweat. One Big Daddy of a tune, you might even say (Ouch! – Ed).
One of those obnoxious noises you’re almost tempted to elevate to Single Of The Week status on intellectual grounds alone. We should salute the fact someone’s got the mad, misguided balls to do a cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’ in a style that can only be described as happy-to-the-point-of-delirium hardcore. But then we should also tremble a little when we remember Ultraviolence’s Earache label are experts at catapulting obscenely inane records like ‘I Wanna Be A Hippy’ into the Top Ten. Meaning this car-crash racket – an Altern 8 remix of Sigue Sigue Sputnik played on 45rpm if ever we heard it – could well be unavoidable in a fortnight. Erk!
ED RUSH & OPTICAL
Given up on buying drum’n’bass records because a fair proportion of dance music’s once most hardcore candidates have switched allegiance to making ultra-civilised, musical records (ugh) more at home in your Dad’s car than sweaty Brixton basements? Check this double-pack – featuring not only two of d&b’s brightest new stars, but fellow new-skoolers Andy C and Optical’s brother Matrix turning in mixes from forthcoming Virus album ‘Wormhole’ – and think again. Drum’n’bass as it was always meant to be, namely tense and unsettling, relentless and yet multi-layered and ever-evolving. A treat for the ears and well worth catching.
BUDDHA MONK FEAT OL’ DIRTY BASTARD
Got’s ?? Like Come On Through
There are two ways to hip-hop heaven these days, you know. One: employ a hopelessly simple spine of a groove viciously prodded along by a choice rapper (Ced-Gee of Ultramagnetic MC’s, in this case) and sit back to enjoy a sizeable B-boy cigar. Or two: find someone out of the Wu-Tang Clan with a few spare hours on their hands, let him drone on endlessly over some wonky, discordant beats, then call in Beastie-remixing junglists Prisoners Of Technology to clean up the mess. Either’s fine by us.
Does drum’n’bass really need its very own Shakespear’s Sister?! No, we didn’t think so either.