Category Archives: Artful Dodger

Artful Dodger – It’s All About the Stragglers

The Artful Dodger
It’s All About the Stragglers
November 27, 2000
London Recordings/ UMG


1. Think About Me (feat. Michelle Escoffery) // 2. Re-Rewind (feat. Craig David) // 3. Outrageous (feat. Lyn Eden) // 4. Please Don’t Turn Me On (feat. Lifford) // 5. Twentyfourseven (feat. Melanie Blatt) // 6. Something (feat. Lifford) // 7. Movin’ Too Fast (feat. Romina Johnson) // 8. R U Ready (feat. MC Alistair) // 9. I Can’t Give Up (feat. Nadia) // 10. Woman Trouble (feat. Robbie Craig & Craig David) // 11. What You Gonna Do? (feat. Craig David) // 12. It Ain’t Enough (feat. MZ May & MC Alistair) // 13. We Should Get Together (feat. Nadia)

Pop music audiences are fickle, but no subgroup more so than mainstream electronic music listeners. An electronic music genre that hovers in the underground can survive for decades without losing their underground popularity and credibility (psychedelic trance and D&B for instance), but once the mainstream adopts it it usually burns out within five years or so. So for those curious about the fate of Dubstep in ten years or so; look no further than It’s All About the Stragglers, the only album released by the Artful Dodger, the flagship artists of the long dead and buried 2step garage genre.

2step garage is Drum & Bass’ smoothed-out cousin, that had quite some mainstream-niche popularity in the late-‘90s to early naughties. It’s music people who are today in their mid- to late twenties to mid thirties listened to at drugged-out parties ten years ago. It’s Dubstep 2000. UKG was born circa 1999 and it was more or less completely dead by 2003. Listening today you’ll be hard-pressed not to regard it as huge chunk of cheese. Question is: Does the cheese stink? (Side note: For the record. I already think of most dubstep as horrible, cheesy, cliché’d crap. And I don’t think the element of vintage will make the dubstep-experience better or worse for me.)

On of 2step’s characteristics is that it usually, though not always, lacks the 4/4 kick drum pattern found in most other forms of dance music, replacing it with more unusual rhythms by for instance placing snare sounds at unusual timings and accents. Also it’s hella more slick and melodic than it’s daddy; liquid Drum & Bass, oft lacing the beats with R&B vocals, making it accessible to the mainstream, or commercial and corny depending on your point of view. My point of view is that UKG is a electronic genre that is gentler, more melodic, more pleasant and yes more pop (What is that even?) than what is blasted in clubs and rave-parties these days. Without glorifying the music I’ll state that I’ll take this over dubstep, tekno, techno, teqneau and what not anytime.

Right. On with the review.

It’s All About the Stragglers is not so much a cohesive album as a collection of previously-released singles. But in 2012 it’s dated/ vintage feel is all the cohesion this reviewer needs, and then some. Most of these songs feature a typically atypical, jittery 2step rhythm, with some poppy bassline and glittery melody, and a competent athough faceless vocalist on top of it.

Within the 50 plus minute span of this shiny compact disc everything starts running together seamlessly, with only three real highlights. This goes not only for the songs but also for the hired vocalists. You try keeping soundalike no-names Michelle Escoffery, Nadia and Romina Johnson apart without looking at the credits. But keeping in mind that this is clubbing music, made for you to shake your ass to, not for close scrutiny by smartass critics, this is besides the point. Stragglers makes for quite entertaining retro dancefloor-fodder. As such you could actually play it in it’s entirety without coming across something off-puttingly bad. Which must’ve been super handy at the time of Stragglers’ release, since you needn’t change cd’s as often at house parties, to maintain the good times.

Today, however, we have iTunes and Spotify, in which you’re not required to change discs in order to switch to another album or artist. Therefor those who can’t be bothered to give half a fuck about yesteryear’s dance music fad can just listen to the songs from the “best tracks” section. The absolute star attraction off this album is the immortal floor filler Re-Rewind, which just so happens to be the debut appearance of a certain Craig David. (After garage died out Mark Hill, the only guy who remains from the original line-up of Artful Dodger, remained with David for couple more years, creating more conventional pop songs. David, by the way, sounds like faceless vocalist #1085 on Re-Rewind as well as on his other two appearances on Stragglers, just like ever other voice on here does. Funny how he became the breakout star. That’s probably only because Re-Rewind became the album’s biggest hit. I wonder if Lifford would’ve had a solo-career if he would’ve been on that song rather than Craig.)

Please Don’t Turn Me On is another high point, with it’s acoustic guitar riff and it’s tempo-changes, and Lifford’s imitations of emoting, while singing about being tempted to cheat and what not. The only other thing worth mentioning is that Melanie Blatt of female vocal quartet All Saints gets a track to herself in Twentyfourseven.

So that’s that. It’s All About the Stragglers is a time capsule, brilliant for 2000-themed parties and nostalgia in general. An unrivaled novelty item. Also it was the launchpad for Craig David’s career, which is… something. It’s not essential listening but it does contain a few terrific songs and it’s nice enough to look to listen to once in its entirety on spotify or grooveshark or something. The three songs in the best tracks section are required listening though.

(By the way, as of late 2step, as well as other forms of UK Garage are in some sort of revival. So after dubstep seemingly dies out forever, probably in a year or so, it’ll probably come back to life after ten years. Groan.)

Best tracks:
Re-Rewind, Please Don’t Turn Me On, Woman Trouble

Either purchase the album second hand or buy the above three tracks off iTunes or Amazon.