Although we've already encountered previous entries that arrived from out of the UK Garage scene, examples to date always seemed to me to be diluted with an element of novelty that made them palatable to a wider mainstream audience. It also applied a taming, broadbrush whitewash over the pirate radio, inner city dance scene that spawned it in the same way that Europe 'tamed' heavy metal for a 1986 audience who would not have gone near 'Master Of Puppets' or 'Reign In Blood'. None of which troubles '21 Seconds', an out and out garage track that makes no concession to commercial niceties. I've mentioned before that South London's So Solid Crew were a conglomerate akin to a home-grown version of the Wu Tang Clan (each of the So Solid Crew gets a verse of their own to big themselves up on), and like the Staten Island rappers they came with an aura of outlaw danger and urban dread that arose from the source and carried over into the music.
Initially anyway - though they would lighten up in the future, '21 Seconds' sees So Solid Crew very much inside the Garage tent pissing out. The relentless, two step beats and rhythm tick like a bomb to provide a click track of tension heightened by the machine gun vocal fire of street slang and references to "niggas wanna see nigga get rich" that jar in amongst the candyfloss of 2001. And because of it, '21 Seconds' is a wound coil, four minutes of grime given a perfunctory wipe across the mouth that showcases both the vibrancy of British dance culture that exists below the horizon away from the kitsch and the youth that created it. I'm not going to pretend that it's a world that I've ever been a part of or (to be honest) ever wanted to be, but it makes me wish I was young enough to have been. But in any case, I'd like to think I'm savvy enough to recognise the sound of a pushed envelope when I hear it and on those terms it's immensely gratifying to find that the record buying public can still occasionally look beyond the corporate denominator and pull off a genuine surprise.