Artful Dodger - Woman Trouble (The Wideboys "Pick A Pocket Or Two" Mix)
After my meditations on the possibility of an internal collapse for UK Garage, I've been wondering if there was any direction left for the scene to go in which it would be able to avoid the pitfalls of division. This excellent remix of "Woman Trouble", one of my picks for best garage remixes of the year, offers as a bonus a vision of how the scene could actually more closely integrate its disparate stylistic influences into a sound that seamlessly combines pop ambition with underground authenticity.
The very fact that this is a remix of an Artful Dodger (crossover success of the year) by the Wideboys (pirate heroes of the year) should provide some sort of symbolic clue - a two way partnership between the commercial and underground artists provides obvious benefits for both, and certainly doesn't the damage the reputations of the latter. The real revelation lies in the music, though. The structure of the somewhat smooth original is largely untouched, but its supplemented with a reving motor bassline and an even more wired version of the trademark Wideboys choppy, wooden drums, here full of sudden changes, false starts, breakdowns, pounding kickdrums and insanely sped up snare rolls.
What I love most is the resurrection of '98 style "vocal science", the Wideboys at times pulling apart Robbie Craig's original soul-crooner vocals and reconstructing them as vocal-gymnast skats that provide (get this) harmonies to the main tune - my favourite moment is a tongue-defying jumble near the start that goes "dum-dum-boomdumbeboombedebedibeh!", sounding like Robbie's choking on his drink while simultaneously having his vitals stepped on by the offending lady.
The promising thing about this remix is that it is, if anything, more "pop" than the original, with more hooks and a more appealing chorus arrangement; on the other hand it still retains all the stylistic components of an underground/breakbeat garage track. There's no reason why the musical and rhythmic tricks of the latter can't be grafted onto a pop blueprint; in fact the results are generally more exciting than anything going on in the scene (or any other scene, for that matter). This is something The Wideboys have obviously fully realised - check their remix of the All Saints' "Black Coffee" for similar delights. Let's hope more garage producers start staking out this territory in the near future.