25
Nov 11

2 UNLIMITED – “No Limit”

Popular110 comments • 8,674 views

#685, 13th February 1993

Delicious pop memory: Tony Parsons casting this song as an outrider of apocalypse on some late night culture or news show. He read out the lyrics slowly, in a tone of profound regret – how far had we fallen when this.. this thing could stand in for pop?

At University by now, I was watching with friends, sprawled in chairs round a communal TV. Whatever our opinion of the song, there was a general feeling that Parsons was being a chump: if you draw a line between then and now, you’d better be pretty sure you really know what the “now” side means. And he didn’t. Yes, as Spitting Image said, “There’s no lyrics!” – clever wording there, good one, but who exactly was coming to this looking for those?

Of course it wasn’t just the newly-old who detested this. Ray Slijngaard’s “techno techno techno techno” – cut and looped from a longer rap – set him up as the chart’s most effective troll, infuriating a lot of people who’d set value on their ability to parse dance music’s genrescape. Anything “No Limit” did or didn’t owe to techno had been pounded into irrelevance by the time it reached the public. What’s left – and this is what Parsons should have spotted more easily – is riff-driven, lizard-brain jump-around pop, closer in goonish spirit to “Sugar Sugar” or “Rock’n’Roll Part 2” or “My Sharona” than anything Derrick May ever touched.

Though like the best trolls, Ray’s got enough material here to argue the point with: those echoey hi-hat hits and the union of steam-hammer bass and rubber-ball synths carry the industrial, piston-powered aggression of Belgian rave. There’s even a cowbell somewhere at the back. But it’s the aggression of Gladiators on Saturday Night TV, of piledriver jumps off bouncy castle walls – a thin cover for boundless, romping joy.

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Comments

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  1. 31
    lonepilgrim on 25 Nov 2011 #

    a glorious start to 1993 – lean, kinetic and fun

    I find it amusing that Tony Parsons was so down on this when he had been one of the hip young gunslingers promoting punk back in the day

  2. 32
    Cumbrian on 25 Nov 2011 #

    The thing that strikes me about this record is that it’s not a huge stretch to draw a comparison between “TECHNO, TECHNO, TECHNO, TECHNO” or “No, No, No, No, No, No” and “Hey, Ho, Let’s Go” or “Gabba Gabba Hey”. It doesn’t matter what it means, it’s a tribal dance, you can feel the beat and you know the words – so get involved. Communal in the best sense of the word.

    I wouldn’t stretch to 10 personally but it works well on a gut level, so I’d have it above the threshold for voting in Popular ’93 for instance.

  3. 33
    JLucas on 25 Nov 2011 #

    Add me to the ten brigade. It’s amazing how long 2 Unlimited’s chart careers lasted. Thirteen top twenty hits! Two #1 albums!

    They all do sound exactly, hilariously the same (and I say that as a huge europop apologist) but somehow that’s all part of the charm.

    I also absolutely love the Pet Shop Boys ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ single which joyously sent up this and many of the other big dance hits of the time.

    http://youtu.be/3YjDMmjgKec

    “Techno Techno BLOODY TECHNO DARLING!”

  4. 34
    lonepilgrim on 25 Nov 2011 #

    @32 I almost made the same comparison. Equally, I can imagine Iggy performing this – or 2 Unlimited covering The Stooges

  5. 35
    Tom on 25 Nov 2011 #

    Important “new rock n roll” poll needs yr vote http://freakytrigger.co.uk/ft/2011/11/what-is-the-new-rocknroll/

  6. 36
    Billy Hicks on 25 Nov 2011 #

    I think 2 Unlimited deserve to replace Madonna at the top of the page. They could comfortably hold it until, ooh, late 1994-ish? After that things go supersonic, some might say…

  7. 37
    JLucas on 25 Nov 2011 #

    They’re still going too – though for legal reasons now billing themselves ‘Ray & Anita’.

    This was a top 5 hit in The Netherlands as recently as last year.

    http://youtu.be/gWWSk6Lc44g

  8. 38
    Steve Mannion on 25 Nov 2011 #

    As the fervent clamour for a Madonna-replacement intensifies (never mind that Pop Zakumi is still craftily posing up there unchallenged as if oblivious to the incoming Pop Mandelock or whatever we plump for next Summer HAH tcha priorities people…) I should point out this is being held off pending a bit of a general FT re-design proposed for the new year.

  9. 39
    Mark G on 25 Nov 2011 #

    This is not “Anarchy in the UK” with less lyrics, Tony Parsons!

    This is “Poing” by Rotterdam Termination Source, with *More* lyrics.

    (In truth, it is both of these things)

  10. 40
    Scott M on 25 Nov 2011 #

    Wasn’t Ray actually a bit aggrieved over the removal of his raps, to the extent that he almost refused to techno techno techno techno for an answer and quit when he lobbied for their reinstatement?

  11. 41

    <-- to the top of the page!!

  12. 42
    flahr on 25 Nov 2011 #

    pew pew pew pew pew pew pew pew pew [8]

    (obv.s i completely obliv to the AHA THIS ISN’T REALLY TECHNO deal – :( <- sad)

  13. 43
    weej on 25 Nov 2011 #

    TEN! (but actually seven)

    *I can’t seem to find the ‘uk version’ video. I keep finding one with the full rap and no “TECHNO TECHNO TECHNO TECHNO” – and it’s significantly more rubbish.

    *If anyone hasn’t heard the Wayne Carr interview with 2 Unlimited, well, you’ve been missing out – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tleoF1ovwOo

  14. 44
    flahr on 25 Nov 2011 #

    if we were marking on graphic design this would be a [9]

  15. 45
    Billy Smart on 25 Nov 2011 #

    #25. The NME illustrated its essential coverage of the heated computer games vs rock ‘n’ roll debate with a photo of Miki Berenyi holding a Gameboy.

    #31. A classic Tony Parsons moment when he was part of the original ‘Late Review’ Lawson/Parsons/Paulin/Pearson line-up, reviewing ‘The Black Album’, 1996.

    Tony Parsons: Hanif Kureshi’s big problem is that he’s the oldest swinger in town.

    Alison Pearson: No – Surely that’s YOU, Tony!

    The hip Essex gunslinger was suitably irked.

  16. 46

    tompaulin is the new rock n roll

  17. 47
    Kat but logged out innit on 25 Nov 2011 #

    I remember with CRYSTAL CLARITY this Zig and Zag interview with the ‘Limited on the Big Breakfast: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDjGZSyeTz8

  18. 48
    punctum on 25 Nov 2011 #

    tom paulin was my english tutor innit

  19. 49
    Billy Hicks on 25 Nov 2011 #

    #43 – the Youtube channel ‘The2Unlimitedcom’ has all their videos in both Rap and No Rap forms, here’s the No Rap of No Limit:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEL6nCRB8tg

  20. 50
    Rory on 25 Nov 2011 #

    I now realize that the one I watched earlier today was the non-UK one. Here’s the UK version:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVLLAe70Tok

    You’re right, weej @43, the other is significantly more rubbish; which means I have to bump up my score. SEVEN!

  21. 51
    flahr on 25 Nov 2011 #

    final word from me today: it’s taken me an hour to remember what was on the tip of my brain but now I have remembered it I get to call SPOILER ALERT on #15

  22. 52
    Cumbrian on 25 Nov 2011 #

    @34: No Fun/No Limits mash up? Surprised it doesn’t exist (at least according to my limited Google Fu).

  23. 53
    LondonLee on 25 Nov 2011 #

    #44; The cover does perfectly reflect the record doesn’t it? Cartoon primitive.

  24. 54
    Andrew F on 25 Nov 2011 #

    #47 is as good an excuse as any to link to this track, sadly neither accurate* or spoilery.

    * in the UK, where it was in fairness probably never released.

  25. 55
    vinylscot on 25 Nov 2011 #

    Must be an age thing. 4

  26. 56
    thefatgit on 25 Nov 2011 #

    This has grown on me over the years. There are little burps and farts in the background that have come to the fore, which engage me more than the flurries of NO’s and TECHNO’s which have become so familiar, they’re almost invisible. The video game, primary colour, hyperfast IN YOUR FACENESS may have faded a little too much to award a 10, but a 9 is fair. At the time of release, I thought it was pre-school, Fisher-Price Rave. I’m happy to admit I was wrong.

  27. 57
    Jonathan Bogart on 25 Nov 2011 #

    I only know this from the non-UK edit, but I have a lot of affection for it — it was everywhere in Guatemala in 1993. Checking the Youtube videos reminds me that I was really really attracted to Anita (whose name I had no way of learning then) from the Guatemalan music video channel we could sometimes get.

  28. 58
    The Lurker on 25 Nov 2011 #

    This track did more to calcify my already nascent rockism (at the age of 17) than any other. The combination of the relentless thud-thud-thud beat and the mindless repetition drove me into a frothing rage. When Virgin Radio launched not long after, I embraced it wholeheartedly, not least because I was guaranteed not to hear 2 Unlimited on it. (Or T*ke Th*t.)

    I am a little more catholic in my tastes in my old age, so I’ve just given it another listen and… it’s not quite as bad as I remember it, so I’ll give it a 3 rather than the 1 I was anticipating. I did note that there is absolutely nothing added to the track beyond the 2 minute mark.

    I am enjoying listening to the Wayne Carr interview, though – I read a transcript of this at the time and particularly enjoyed the Douglas Bader bit.

  29. 59
    Billy Smart on 25 Nov 2011 #

    Re#2 When was the last time that we had one of those serendipitous accidental moments of wonderful wrongness on Popular, do you think? The one that comes immediately to mind is the “T-T-T-TAY! TAAY!” in ‘Respectable’. There have been lots of splendid moments since then, but perhaps not many splendid wonky pop moments.

  30. 60
    Nixon on 25 Nov 2011 #

    I remember Smash Hits also gave this a really bad review (if memory serves it was a tiny, postage stamp sized one-paragraph thing right near the back – possibly the only review in the magazine), calling it out for being moronic and unworthy of dancefloors – I can’t remember ANYONE being on its side in public, just a roll-call of haters (Steve Wright: “Techno techno techno notice”), and yet everyone in our year at school (me included) loved it.

    Tom made a quip in the St Winifred’s School Choir review about that record’s inherent crapness uniting every playground faction; this was a similar thing, except for “crapness” read “unfairly maligned excellence” or somesuch. As a nerdy tween mainly interested in Kraftwerk and Jean Michel Jarre, I warmed to this much more than any of the recent run of #1s or the stuff the shaky Rock/Metal Alliance crowd (who always stole the chairs nearest the “social area” (i.e. common room) stereo) usually played – my only real exposure to music other than TOTP and the tapes my parents played on long journeys after we got a car – but weirdly the rock kids all liked it too, probably just because our least trendy teachers both hated and feared it. It was just so strong, pushing the objections out of its way. TEN TEN TEN TEN.

    I was too young, and I hadn’t listened to enough records and didn’t have enough reference points. If I’d been 16 rather than 13 when this came out, I’d probably have had a similar reaction to The Lurker at #58, and hated it for its simplicity and its clumsy, amiable oafishness. Now? I think we’re back to TEN TEN TEN TEN.

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