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Wednesday, June 2, 1999

Short of Transcendence

Posted By on Wed, Jun 2, 1999 at 12:00 AM

It’s hard not to like big-beat band the Freestylers’ all-beats-to-all-people mix of rave, ragga, b-boy and bounce, but it’s hard to love.

Like Jesus Jones the better part of a decade ago, the Freestylers cleverly mix dance and modern rock elements, but, also like Jesus Jones, they have little staying power. Sure, say, a song like "B-Boy Stance" is a fun track in that ballsier-Chemical Brothers kind of way, with its hard breakbeat drums and its double-time-dub bass wobble, but home listening only suggests a further potential greatness, either live or on the dance floor. No crime there, except that the Freestylers are a band with a sound making a record that doesn’t seem to live up to the potential of either, no matter how many hell-yeah hip-hop samples and gruff-but-hinting-at-a-pop-melody rap-sung choruses and tasteful slim-on-the-riff guitars make it into the mix. Unlike Asian Dub Foundation, which knows its way around the studio well enough to make records that both capture the live band feel and allow for the technical precision of samples and sequences, We Rock Hard does that and only that. Worse still, it does it in a genre that, by now, we know can do more than just bask in the reflective glory of all its influences. The Freestylers struggle more to contain them, rather than transcend them – like, for example, the Happy Mondays once did. And, now that the Mondays have re-formed, maybe the F’lers can learn a thing or two.

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