Review Summary: The worst representation of an important era in UK urban music
There was an era in the mid to late 90s when UK garage was the premier soundtrack to the UK's nightlife. The rave scene was still alive and well in some circles, but those craving a bassier, more frenetic night out made their home on the UKG scene, the stadium-esque amphitheatres and huge dancefloors traded for basement rooms and secret warehouses. Somewhat symptomatic of the trend and responsible in no small part for the popularisation of the genre was the somewhat commercially successful act So Solid Crew- a comically oversized garage troupe comprising numerous members who would later attempt to establish themselves as solo artists. Among the throngs of SSC were DJ and MC duo Oxide And Neutrino, whose spate as commercially viable artists was short lived to say the least. A smattering of breakthrough opportunities such as features on movie soundtracks and some mildly well-received performances would follow, but it quickly became apparent that whether through poor production, lyricism, or general lack of an audience, the outfit were not particularly strong on their own terms. With the reincarnation of garage as bassline during the mid 2000s, along with jackin house and grime which borrow heavily from the garage genre, there appears to certainly be an audience for the classic garage sound, whether for its kitsch appeal or as a totem for the sound of a UK nightlife scene years gone. Even more recently, it seems the UKG sound has been making a resurgence, with many classic artists featuring prominently on popular exposure platforms for more urban sounds. Unfortunately, Execute, the first full length from Oxide And Neutrino, despite its earnestness and appropriately heady atmosphere, is a sour example of UK garage at its most derivative; sterile and hugely monotonous.
Garage as a genre was never particularly noted for its creativity or innovative sound, yet through various production choices and stylistics, artists such as Sunship and Groove Chronicles were able to chisel genuine texture and verve into the accepted and expected garage sound. Such production values are non-existent on Execute, which exhibits a sound so bafflingly without flair that it becomes a trying venture after only a couple of minutes. Tracks are stark, lack vibrancy, and are so mind-numbingly repetitive both in vocal additions and rhythm that after a while the nonstop banality begins to encroach on the listener's mental well-being. 'Up Middle Finger' and 'Don't Give A Damn' are particularly garish and obnoxious but are by no means the only tracks that could be described as such. 'Don't Give A Damn' especially is sickeningly bland and immature in its tone and lyrical motif that is repeated ad nauseum. The album's most well-known track, 'Bound 4 Da Reload', is a diabolically lazy remix to the title song of a once-popular UK medical soap, Casualty. This evocation of blue-lights and frantic CPR is mixed with a stuttering vocal delivery and an incessantly recycled phrase from the original song. It is truly bizarre and consistently boring in a borderline sublime way. Yet it is still, grudgingly, the album's standout moment. Any featured rapping, such as it is, is incredibly trite and underwhelming content-wise, shoehorning uninspired rhymes into sprightly but weak flows that essentially just trot alongside the main musical body of the tracks, as opposed to working with them in tandem.
Everything about the release, from the faux-bad boy album art and its washed-out fecal-matter pallette, to the obnoxious TXT language in the titles, is indicative of a very specific, somewhat nostalgic era for UK urban sounds. It is important to note that the throwaway nature of the release was indeed part of its appeal at the point in which it was released. It is intriguing that such a sound, when being blasted out of floor-to-ceiling speakers with the bass kicked into overdrive at an undisclosed warehouse location, created a truly iconic slice of the UK underground scene. Unfortunately, when the sense of clandestine energy and the drug-fuelled elation are subtracted from the equation, all that is left is a barebones, unexciting, sickeningly repetitive jaunt with little-to-no diversity and a typical overabundance of aimless thuggery, both in tone and lyrical content. The frustrating thing about this is that at their peak, Oxide And Neutrino proved that they were capable of producing music that was in no way a marvel of the genre, but that could certainly stand toe-to-toe with various scene mainstays. Earlier garage banger 'Shoot 2 Kill' demonstrates some heavy atmospherics and interesting dynamic applications, and even their chart single 'Dem Girlz (I Don't Know Why)' diverged from typical garage sensibilities and became almost a primitive precursor for modern grime stylings. Unfortunately, such displays of competency are nowhere to be found on Execute- all such touches are sidelined in favour of the by-numbers syncopation and repetitive vocal lines. Although I have not spent a great deal of time discussing individual tracks in this review, this is specifically because of the homogenous nature of the release as a whole. Its component pieces, although crisp and slick, are marred by a laziness and an inexcusable lack of creativity that makes for a release with virtually no unique selling point as music in general, nor even on the scene that it was produced for or spawned from.