| A multi-cultural
band that mixes rap vocals, funk basslines, DJ scratching and punk guitars.
Los Angeles, circa 1999? Nope. Amsterdam back in 1986. That's how far
ahead of their shit Urban Dance Squad
was. The band began as a collective of friends who jammed casually, but
when a one-off festival gig proved to be a success, Urban Dance Squad
got it together, did some real touring and hit the studio.
The result was 1989's "Mental Floss for the Globe." The band's prospects looked promising: The single, "Deeper Shade of Soul," mixed a scratched-up chorus, lazy rap, finger-picked guitar and handclaps to win solid MTV airplay and a respectable spot on the Billboard singles chart. The rest of the album was similarly eclectic: "No Kid" showed off a slinky, stoner groove with an acoustic bass and sitar and synthesizer flourishes; "The Devil" is "deep folk" with R&B edges, odd string arrangements and a barrage of cut-up voices; and "God Blasts the Queen" was a sonic assault on both the British national anthem and the Sex Pistols classic.
It should've been all good from there on in, as the UDS gigged with such complementary luminaries as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Public Enemy and Living Color and impressed audiences with their fun, energetic show. But the band's next effort, 1991's "Life 'N' Perspectives of a Genuine Crossover," somehow slipped by audiencesshoegazer pop and grunge were on the rise, the econemy was on the wane and UDS's happy-go-lucky kaleideoscope of sounds may have seemed a bit out of touch.
Still, there were some solid cuts and a good vibe: The title track shows off a funky, distorted breakbeat and some cleverly cut rapping, and "Mr. Ezway" features a chanted chorus and wave after wave of churning guitars, with jagged Public Enemy samples threaded throughout. Dropped by Arista, Urban Dance Squad were picked up by Virgin, who released 1994's "Persona Non Grata." The album stripped away some of the trimmings and goofiness for more of a straight rap-rock vibe, with tunes like the monster-riffed "Good Grief," the drawling, slow-paced "Alienated" and "Candy Strip Exp.," which did everything Rage Against the Machine does, except not as pretentiously.
In 1996, Urban Dance Squad gradually dissipated, with DJ DNA moving on to his own solo work and rapper Rude Boy joining the band of Dutch electronicist Junkie XL. Still, this year sees an Urban Dance Squad renaissance. Maybe the band was bored, maybe it was sick of Limp Bizkit doing weak-ass versions of stuff it had recorded before Fred Durst had pubic hair, but Urban Dance Squad has pulled it back together for a new release.
"Planet Ultra" features more straight hiphop ("Metaphorical Warfare," "Pass the Baton Right"), folkish-pop interludes ("Temporarily Expandable") and uncategorizable blends ("Grifter Swifter," "Damn the Quota"). The Triple X label is also re-releasing the back catalogmost of it with bonus live discs enclosed. If you slept on these guys the first go-round, now's a good time to wake up.