What happened to the two-step invasion?
January 11, 2002 10:31 PM   Subscribe

What happened to the two-step invasion? In early 2001, America was supposed to be poised for an invasion of this skittery garage/R&B combo, with Craig David's "Fill Me In" taking over the charts. However, while two-step has conquered England, it remains unknown in the US. Where is the homegrown two-step, and why are Artful Dodger, Oxide & Neutrino, MJ Cole and the rest failing to gain any converts on this side of the pond?
posted by Kevs (41 comments total)
Well, I can't speak for the rest of America, but any kind of music calling itself 'garage' that does not involve loud guitars is All Wrong in my book.
posted by jjg at 10:40 PM on January 11, 2002

Garage as in 'garage house'. New genres have to conquer the music geeks and DJs first, and house seems to have run it's course with them. Just okay at the club, lousy elsewhere, in my opinion. That we have fewer clubs probably doesn't help either.
posted by skyline at 10:59 PM on January 11, 2002

Why make a web page when you can just produce one big huge honkin badly antialiased gif?

Now, since this noxiously unlinked document didn't have any decent pointers, WTF is two-step? I'm hopelessly out of touch with the cowboy hat, flannel and Wranglers crowd. Country was never my thing, really.
posted by majick at 11:25 PM on January 11, 2002

Heyyyy I know the guy who wrote that. hahaha. He used to work at ask jeeves. Small world. For a quick intro to two step, go here.
posted by atom128 at 11:32 PM on January 11, 2002

Oh, and the reason it never cought on here is because noone likes male diva vocals.
posted by atom128 at 11:37 PM on January 11, 2002

Because "Two Step" sounds like some kind of waltz my grandmother would be familiar with. Stupid two step.
posted by dopamine at 11:38 PM on January 11, 2002

Two-step is already all washed up, probably because Squarepusher single-handedly mocked it to oblivion with his track My Red Hot Cock. The same thing happened with Prodigy techno-punk (once "the next big thing") after Aphex Twin destroyed the genre with Come To Daddy.

This very discussion was just beat to death last week on the IDM List.
posted by afx114 at 11:44 PM on January 11, 2002

Bear in mind that a lot of people in the UK hate it (including myself) so why would Americans care?
posted by davidgentle at 12:04 AM on January 12, 2002

Atom...there's a lot of female two-step too, like Sholo Ama, who's brilliant. And much of the new speed garage is more of an MC-driven style (like So Solid). I think the problem with these is that most British rappers aren't very good, and the beats are a bit behind the kind of things you see from Timbaland, BT and Neptunes.
posted by Kevs at 12:41 AM on January 12, 2002

And there I was thinking that Squarepusher track was just more of the same self-indulgent noodling I've come to expect from him. But it's actually an ironic statement. My word, how clever - the world of two-step must have been absolutely devastated.
posted by pascal at 1:48 AM on January 12, 2002

Simple... the US is pretty crappy at picking up on new European styles. Then once the US does pick up on a style, it still continues to miss the point. Example: 'Techno' music. Everyone quit calling it 'techno' in Europe ages ago.

'The Ones' are the only American act producing decent commercial dance or club tunes right now, and they're nothing amazing.

But why does the US really need to get in on the whole club culture thing? The US constantly produces the best rock/alternative acts, and Europe produces the best dance and club (throw 'garage' in there too if you want) music. It seems fair to me.
posted by wackybrit at 3:00 AM on January 12, 2002

The US has Primus and we have Artful Dodger.

The US wins.
posted by jackiemcghee at 3:15 AM on January 12, 2002

Two Step Garage: Music For Retards with Rockports and their tracksuit bottoms tucked into them. Oh and a Henry Lloyd Jumper and a baseball hat. I believe they call themselves the 'crew.'

Awful to listen to.

Craig David - ew. Poor, Poor Music.
posted by ajbattrick at 3:30 AM on January 12, 2002

Wow! A lot of hatin' going on here... ;-) Two-step doesn't really do much for me either, to be honest (apart from the *awesome* MJ Cole), but you gotta start to question whether slagging an entire genre (a well established one, natch) shows a well-reasoned critique, or a lazy and disinterested inability to even *try* to separate the wheat from the chaff. Personally, I can even find something to like about country... (CJ & the Fish, The Byrds...)

Anyone with an open mind, and a faint interest in broadening their horizons could do worse than checking MJ Cole's debut on Talkin' Loud (seriously well-respected UK label, responsible for breaking the Young Disciples, Nu Yorican Soul etc, for those that don't know...) Not an amazing all-round album, but a few absolutely cracking tracks. If you can see past the cheesy lifestyle aspects too, then Artful Dodger actually stand up pretty well to critical home listening. Avoid Oxide & Neutrino and So Solid Crew like the plague however, unless you have a fetish for low rent Brit-rap.

Kev S

and the beats are a bit behind the kind of things you see from Timbaland, BT and Neptunes.

Worth noting that Timbaland is widely suspected of simply ripping the style of UK jungle wholesale for his beats (eg double speed breaks over normal speed bass and vox). He denies it outright of course... Neptune are quite Timbaland influenced right? Not heard too much of their stuff...

None-the-less, I think the critical fetish for two-step in the UK revolves around the fact that it's coming from the streets. Oxide & Neutrino really are pretty bad by any criteria, the media *love* them because they're two mouthy little teenage shits from an estate in Battersea. Of *course* they're not beat-scientists to the same extent as Timbaland and BT, who've virtually lived in their studios for the last 10 years...

Anyway, definitely a scene worth watching out for. Can kind of see parallels with Acid-House in some ways - most early house really doesn't sound too good now: the genre was more about the lifestyle than anything else, but provided the inspiration to nurture musical talent in a particular direction. Three or four years later there were house-producers at the cutting edge of music production, both technically and artistically. Don't be too surprised to see similar things happen with producers like Cole.
posted by bifter at 4:15 AM on January 12, 2002


Techno is most definitely a genre. I'm not sure where you get off saying that "Everyone quit calling it 'techno' in Europe ages ago." In my hands, I'm holding a DJ Hitchhiker record, made in Munich. And god, is this record ever techno. Hard, throbbing beat. Much more square and electronic sounding than House. In fact, I spent Tuesday through Thursday listening to an ungodly amount of techno. I would characterize the genre has having fast, unrelenting rhythms, little melody. That's where a lot of techno is today.

"'The Ones' are the only American act producing decent commercial dance or club tunes right now, and they're nothing amazing."

I'm not even sure how to reply to this comment. I listen and enjoy dance music virtually every day of my life. Whether it's house, techno, jungle/drum & bass, hip-hop, trance, etc, I seldom get bored. Maybe your mistake is in focusing on the commercial aspect of dance music.

Then you've completely failed to make any mention of the US rave scene. For one, it's very different from the club and commercial scenes. There's a lot of cool shit happening at raves today.

And just for the sake of completeness, I thought I'd toss in the names of some subgenres out here in the land of dance music. I have difficulty believing that the scene isn't vibrant with so many different ideas coming out:

- House, Deep House, Funky House, US Hard House, UK Hard House/NRG, Tech-House, Techno, Acid House
- Trance, Psytrance, Goa Trance, Cybertrance, Floofy Trance
- Breaks, Nu Skool Breaks, Funky Breaks
- Jungle, Drum & Bass, Jump Up, Techstep, Ragga, Atmospheric Jungle
- Hardcore, Happy Hardcore, Speed/Terrorcore

etc, etc, etc .... yadda yadda yadda. As you can see, there are tons of styles coming out. I have a hard time believing that you really know much about American Dance music. Hell, I don't even know who the hell "The Ones" are. They sound like they suck.

Don't diss my music. =P

posted by ookamaka at 4:29 AM on January 12, 2002

I feel old.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:34 AM on January 12, 2002

Sippin' cris, rollin' on dubs, and spendin' crazy cheese. Yeah yeah.

UK Garage is a bad take on US R & B. They go on about the same things as US rappers do and use the same words. But when those words come out of the mouths of - as bifta put it - two mouthy little shits from Battersea, they just sound ridiculous. And as for Skat D from So Solid breaking that girl's jaw, and then having his fellow crew members trying to justify it by saying she was asking for it .... don't get me started.

I'm really trying hard to think of one 2-step record that did anything but make me cringe in the past 5 years. The only one that comes to mind is Roy Davis Jr's Gabrielle. And he's American.
posted by dlewis at 4:46 AM on January 12, 2002


I'm really trying hard to think of one 2-step record that did anything but make me cringe in the past 5 years.

Check 'I see' or 'Sanctuary' by MJ Cole... On a bit of a tangent, anyone else notice that 'Sweet like Chocolate' is a thinly disguised cover of the 'Doll in a Box' song from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang??
posted by bifter at 5:00 AM on January 12, 2002

I feel old.

I'm with you, stavros. I'm gonna go fish my dentures out of the glass of water by my bed, put on a fresh pair of Depends, and listen to Martin Denny LPs until I nod off.
posted by MrBaliHai at 5:44 AM on January 12, 2002

pascal: And there I was thinking that Squarepusher track was just more of the same self-indulgent noodling I've come to expect from him.

What's wrong with self-indulgent noodling?
posted by juv3nal at 5:55 AM on January 12, 2002

I dunno... have they been putting 2-step in car commercials and video games? Seems like the only way the mass public is exposed to that stuff these days in the U.S.
posted by ph00dz at 6:19 AM on January 12, 2002

I'm still wondering why the Bay City Rollers didn't turn out to be the next Beatles, as predicted. (And thankful, as well)

(READ: Don't believe the hype!)
posted by HTuttle at 6:50 AM on January 12, 2002

he's not from here? then please take craig david back.
posted by lotsofno at 8:04 AM on January 12, 2002

Please no, don't send him back.
Keep him.

In fact do him for murder then he can be executed. You yanks are good at that.
posted by ajbattrick at 9:07 AM on January 12, 2002

most British rappers aren't very good

Which ones have you been listening to?
posted by walrus at 9:39 AM on January 12, 2002

As well as MJ Cole (who I don't much care for even with the Gilles Petersen seal of approval) some other two step stuff worth checking out includes the Wookie and Sunship albums from a couple of years back. Not being in the UK anymore I'm not as in touch with the latest stuff as I could be, but I will buy pretty much anything by Landslide.

juv3nal - it's fine in small doses, but I get bored listening to stuff whose sole purpose seems to be to demonstrate that My New Breakbeat Technique Is Unstoppable. But... whatever turns you on.
posted by pascal at 9:54 AM on January 12, 2002


the singing might be a bad take on US R&B, but i would like to clear any confusion regarding garage. garage is a style of music that originated in the US in the mid 80s or so, over in New York at the Paradise Garage nightclub. (hence "garage.") since it's tough to absolutely categorize dance music, i always use beats-per-minute as my marker. the stylistic origins of garage are basically that of house (disco and soul music from the 70s) though people have deviated quite a bit since then, but the main distinction is that garage moves a tad slower than house typically does. (10 bpm on average, i would say; give or take a bit.)

i am not at all sure why garage should have taken off rather than anything else; nothing particularly distinguishes it from other though similar styles. the marquee style on that spectrum of dance is house, it being a bit faster and far more popular; at the opposite end is techno, it being very much faster than house or garage but with very different stylistic roots and goals. i'm afraid techno will always be the most visible form of dance music (a lot of people don't know the difference between it and anything else).

there is a history of house that also explains some of the origins of garage, if you're interested. (can you tell i'm a house fan?)
posted by moz at 10:37 AM on January 12, 2002

I don't understand why electronic music makes people like resident codgers Stravros and MrBaliHai "feel old." Even if raving has only been around since (gasp) the late '80s, electronic music has been around since (double gasp) the late '70s (think Kraftwerk and Donna Summer's "I Feel Love").

I might not listen to much rock music, but that doesn't mean I feel "old" when I hear folks talk about Radiohead. Say you don't relate, but don't shake your head and mutter about being old. Age has little to do with it. My father is a huge electronic music fan, and he's almost 60.

In terms of two-step, I'm not sure if I'd say it hasn't crept well into US top-40. There were a couple two-step tracks on "Celebrity," N*Sync's last album, which is as commercial as a music genre can get.
posted by arielmeadow at 10:59 AM on January 12, 2002

Moz, you don't need to clear any confusion with me - I've been buying house records since the late 80's. I think I know the distinction your trying to make though. Musical labels have never been any use to anyone but the music press, although I confess to having at times taken mild amusement in confusing people about the important differences between G'raaaaj and Garridge.

What the NY lot would call garage, the Chicago people might call house, and vice versa. Some create techno that others call house. Most house I hear these days sounds like techno did 5 years ago. Confused? You should be. At the end of the day (to use a football commentator's mainstay), what it comes down to for me is how much Soul a record has got. Great .... another nebulous term. But that's the only one I use with any regularity. Did the producer put any emotion into the track? Did they put any thought into it? Does it stir something deep, deep, deep inside of you?

When it comes to the packages that arrive on the doorstep of my eardrums day to day, at least the one's marked "2 step", the answers to the above questions are no, no and no. Devoid of any notable musical qualities, I just put it down to a marketing term, and another way for Londoners to go on about how much better they are than the rest of us.

PS - Kevs in search of quality British rap, check out my all time favourite British rap album of all time ever completely: London Posse's "Gangsta Chronicle", which has just been re-released. May sound a little dated in production terms these days, but still as raw and original as ever. These were some mouthy little shits from Battersea who actually dared to sound like they were from Battersea.
posted by dlewis at 11:08 AM on January 12, 2002

"I feel old" means that there are styles of music that you have never heard of, that you have no idea what they sound like. I have probably listened to more electronic music than most people (compared to the general public, not to people here) but I cannot begin to tell the difference between trance, psytrance, goa trance, cybertrance, and floofy trance. Hell, I can barely tell the difference between trance and jungle and house, it's all just beats and bleeps to me (that's not derisive, I like a lot of those beats and bleeps).

I mean, back when I was a kid, there was your general rock, there was your pop, and there was your metal. (Nobody I knew ever listened to punk.) I don't think it ever occurred to any of the stoners at my high school to put Floyd and Zeppelin in different categories; they were both "rock" even though their music is really quite different. Now, even the categories have categories, each with their ardent adherents. That definitely makes me feel old.
posted by kindall at 11:15 AM on January 12, 2002

if this is turning into a US vs UK thing, might I remind you of the Teletubbies and Spice Girls.

I will also note that I don't know about most of this stuff you are talking about, but here is some info on The Neptunes
posted by hotdoughnutsnow at 12:11 PM on January 12, 2002

ookamaka: I'm not speaking to people like you, who are obviously major techno fans and who still buy 12" vinyls, etc. I'm talking about joe public.. commercial stuff.

Sure, the US has a healthy underground dance scene.. but it does not have a healthy mainstream one. Since when did dance tracks dominate the US charts? (or, vice versa, since when did country tracks dominate the UK charts?)

My point remains intact. The US hasn't embraced dance, club, garage, D&B or jungle in any mainstream way. Respect to the underground people like you keeping it alive over there.. but the US and UK mainstream music scenes are like chalk and cheese.

And I didn't mention US rave.. in my experience, it's too colorful and camp (what's all that stuff about carrying pacifiers, lollipops and sweets about??)

And hotdoughnut: Yep, the US and the UK have many terrible embarassments! I'm not slagging off the US as such, but pointing out that there's a major difference in the scenes each side of the pond.

Sure, the US may have a sucky mainstream dance scene.. but have you heard any British rock lately? It totally blows compared to US offerings.
posted by wackybrit at 12:59 PM on January 12, 2002

walrus... I'm pretty familiar with UK rap (though I will check out London posse). I'm not saying there aren't any good rappers in England at all. MC Dynamite (he's on a lot of Roni Size tracks, like the great "Dirty Beats") has some great flow, as do MC Luck and occasionally some of Mark B and Blade. The problem is that a lot of the new rap sounds like they've got marbles in their mouth. Even the British don't have any idea what Romeo or Lady Dynamite (from "Boo!" by Sticky) or Oxide & Neutrino are saying.

An interesting point to make about two-step and garage is that they were both born in America. Actually, nearly every electronic breakthrough has been born in America. Techno from Detroit, house in Chicago, D&B from Miami, etc.. Even garage has American roots.

I also think there's a big difference between garage and two-step. When I think of garage, I think of stuff like non-vocal Jameson's "Urban Hero", whereas two-step is more like Artful Dodger, Cole, Sunship, etc., although there is the strain of garage with MC's like So Solid which isn't so much two-step. A good point someone made about the new N' Sync album: The two-step tracks (beats by BT) are actually pretty good, though none of them has really been a single (though "Pop" has some strain of two-step in it).

As far as US club scenes are concerned, my city of 150,000 doesn't have a single electronica dance club.
posted by Kevs at 1:26 PM on January 12, 2002

Reason UK garage has not hit the US: America is a few years behind the UK in dance music terms. While some of its cities are more progressive than others, much of the USA is just discovering rave (those "candy ravers" are nothing more than historical facts in Britain) and most Americans think that Fatboy Slim, The Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy are about as cutting edge as it gets.

Britain's a disco nation, America is a rock nation. It will probably ever be thus. Of course some of the better producers in the R'n'B scene Stateside will take influence from UK garage (I heard some references to it in one of Usher's tracks), but by and large UK garage won't filter through for a good few years, and even then it'll be far less rabidly followed than in England.
posted by skylar at 2:07 PM on January 12, 2002

Say you don't relate, but don't shake your head and mutter about being old.

Actually, I write music reviews for an indie magazine out of Seattle. I've heard more weird stuff than you can probably imagine and I can relate to pretty much any genre that you care to mention.
posted by MrBaliHai at 5:23 PM on January 12, 2002

What kindall and MrBaliHai said. I've been active, despite my near-total lack of musical skills, in various music scenes in various places around the world over the years, and still have broad-ranging tastes, if mostly on the rawk end of things.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:23 PM on January 12, 2002


Okay, i understand where you're coming from now. Point taken. I agree that the mainstream dance scene in the US sucks, and that it's huge in Europe. I'm not entirely sure why this is - it's an interesting question. I have my own theories as to why this is true, but it's a pretty large question that would be difficult to address in a small space.

btw, I loved the comparison of chalk and cheese. Lovely ;)

Skylar: Saying that USA is a rock nation is kind of misleading. There's one really important difference between the UK and the US: size. The US is just so freaking huge. There's a lot going on here. I dunno, that's just a really broad generalization.

posted by ookamaka at 1:04 AM on January 13, 2002


These were some mouthy little shits from Battersea who actually dared to sound like they were from Battersea.

I'm not going to live this one down, am I...? ;-)
posted by bifter at 3:35 AM on January 13, 2002

Can we all agree though that Trance Is Shit?
posted by kerplunk at 9:44 AM on January 14, 2002


Can we all agree though that Trance Is Shit?

Geezer! I'm with you! Jam with like-minded trance-haters, if you don't already, at uk-dance.
posted by bifter at 12:43 PM on January 14, 2002

the important differences between G'raaaaj and Garridge.

ah yes, I remember one heady evening at a bus-stop in brighton where I tried to hang with the local accent and got reamed for accidently saying 'gear-age" instead of "garridge".

now i just call it a carhole.
posted by fishfucker at 12:14 PM on January 15, 2002

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