It seems like The Next Big Thing in music is always coming out of England. A few years back, it was drum’n'bass that was supposed to take over the charts and show us the future of music. Though that promise never materialized, the Brits always have something else to offer. Of late, the buzz in club music is UK Garage, or 2-Step, a combination of drum’n'bass, four-on-the-floor garage and R&B. Among the leaders of this movement are Pete Devereux and Mark Hill, who together form Artful Dodger. Of course, the same country that gave us Radiohead also gave us the Spice Girls, so it’s not like everything that comes from the land of tea and crumpets is high art. Sometimes you get Kristal, and sometimes you get Kool Aid.
And the Artful Dodger’s mix compilation, Re-Rewind, is definitely Kool Aid. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You’ll be sorely disappointed if you’re looking for an epic work that challenges your musical boundaries. However, if you’re looking for fun, easy, catchy dance music, Re-Rewind will do you right. Hill and Devereux have put together a mix that runs with nary a seam from beginning to end, with tons of energy and just enough variety to keep dance-aholics from getting bored.
With all the hybrid music styles out there, it’s easy to dismiss combining R&B vocals with two-step beats as just another gimmick. But in this case, the merging of styles works nicely, as the melodramatic singing provides a human, emotional counterpunch to the stripped-down two-step bass and percussion loops. While some folks may squirm at the lovesick R&B lyrics, songs like “Woman Trouble” and “Nitro Dust” are just too damn catchy to resist. Before they know it, serious music connoisseurs might just find themselves bopping along to an All Saints remix, or shouting out corny lyrics like “I’ll take you to the highest ground / Spread your wings and fly away”.
At times, Artful Dodger dips a bit far into the bucket o’ cheese, and the lyrics become just too goofy to overlook. On “Re-Rewind”, it’s hard not to smirk at lines like “Making moves, yeah, on the dance floor / Get our groove on, dancing, yeah, real hardcore”, and “With Craig David all over your—zoing (goofy sound effect)”. Uh, what did you want to say guys? Shit? Ass? Come on, belt it out! And did the world really need another version of “We R Family”? Still, Re-Rewind succeeds as an entertaining dance compilation. Pop the CD in your car stereo, and your attention might drift after a few minutes. But UK Garage certainly seems capable of keeping people happily shaking their booties on the club floor. At least until hip-hop/rockabilly/opera or country/ragga/Gregorian chant comes along and knocks it off the charts.