Tuesday, 1 September 2009

1988 S'Express: Theme from S'Express

It's surprising how quickly a new broom can turn into an old hat. Barely months previously, M/A/R/R/S's use of samples on 'Pump Up The Volume' sounded like, if not the future, then certainly the present as it is lived on another planet. It was new, exciting and came with a hint of danger in it's illegality, yet it didn't take long for the whole old lamps for new genre to take on a definite 'ho hum'-ness.

S'Express was basically Mark Moore, a major figure in the early years of UK house/acid house music. 'Theme from S'Express' is based none too loosely on, inter alia, Rose Royce's 'Is It Love You're After' and TZ's "I Got The Hots For You," Rather than play around with and integrate these sources in a creative or imaginative way, whole sections of these (and other) people's music is liberally lifted wholesale and bolted onto other people's music in a way that does not blend the mix like a fine malt but leaves each component part intact and glaringly obvious as to its source.

Both the Rose Royce and TZ track were funky and danceable entities in their own right and their pillaging and re-assembling makes as much sense as cannibalising two walls for bricks to build a third wall to mark the same boundary. Unlike 'Pump Up The Volume', 'Theme from S'Express' repeats its business ad nauseum, meaning that unless you're getting down to it on the dancefloor then there's precious little to keep you listening when you're off it.

And therein lies the rub, dance music always tends to flap aimlessly like a fish out of water when taken in isolation, and what might sound inspirational as part of a three hour DJ set in a sweaty club loses all context when broken down into individual seven inch singles, the same way as a humerus is pretty ineffectual without the radius, ulna and scapula to support and give it its function.

As an individual single, 'Theme from S'Express' lacks the spark of individuality that made other early house tracks so arresting. It's busy and it's funky, but then again you can say that about almost any James Brown B side and it's construction slips a collar and leash on the genre, ultimately begging the question as to why anybody would want to be messing around with a Frankenstein's monster of a tune when they can have Adam proper.

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