Nov 11

2 UNLIMITED – “No Limit”

Popular110 comments • 8,685 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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  1. 61
    Another Pete on 25 Nov 2011 #

    In short it’s everything the previous number 1 wasn’t.

  2. 62
    AndyPandy on 25 Nov 2011 #

    I’m mystified by all the props this is getting. It’s scoring higher than Paul Hardcastle for goodness sake!
    I’ve never heard anyone ever say anything good about it before! I thought it was for the under 14 year olds.

    But the weird thing is that I should imagine that aging ex-punks like Tony Parsons and people of his generation thought that stuff like this is what was played in “raves” as I HAVE heard from those of that age countless times that anything vaguely dancey and electronic from about 1986 onwards “all sounds the same”.

    Still don’t hate it though – anything that gets up the noses of the keepers of the rock flame must be good.

  3. 63
    Rory on 25 Nov 2011 #

    @62 Pretty sure I’m hearing this for the first time today at the venerable age of 43, and I certainly score it higher than Paul Hardcastle. Nine-nine-nuh-nine-nine, nein-nein-nein-nuh-no-no-no.

  4. 64
    Tommy Mack on 25 Nov 2011 #

    My generation’s Wild Thing. A brilliant slab of gonzo primitivism. Even Paul Weller does a little dance to this when he’s sure no-one’s watching.

  5. 65
    heather on 26 Nov 2011 #

    Tony Parsons is such a tool. Even at the height of my indie hipster snobbery, I thought this sort of bouncy cheese was ok.

  6. 66
    weej on 26 Nov 2011 #

    Re:heather @68 – Whatever our differences on here, I hope we can all agree that Tony Parsons is a complete and utter tool.

  7. 67
    Mark G on 26 Nov 2011 #

    @68? But we’re only at message 67 now! Unless Heather is going to say something in the very next message…..

  8. 68
    weej on 26 Nov 2011 #

    We’ll just have to wait and see.


  9. 69
    swanstep on 26 Nov 2011 #

    I was kind of thinking that since there’s so little to it, No Limit would be almost uncoverable (at least with any real profit or except as a joke), but checking youtube I see that that’s not so at all. Rather, perhaps because of NL’s minimality/ease-of-play, hordes of (no name) covers from country to metal are available.

  10. 70
    MikeMCSG on 26 Nov 2011 #

    Not my cup of tea at all but would give it some credit for winding up the purists in the same way Modern Romance spiked the so-called salsa scene in 1981.

  11. 71
    will on 26 Nov 2011 #

    Love it! Love it! Love it! Love it!

    Although perhaps not as much as Tribal Dance (‘Take Your Cheance CORMM ONN!’) Or Faces (‘Faces faces everywhere!/ EVERYWHERE!! EVERYWHERE!!’) Or Maximum Overdrive (‘Boom Skiddity Boom Skiddity Boom Skiddity Boom!/ Take you down into the Maximum!’) Or, in fact, nearly all of the accompanying No Limits album, which is absolutely fantastic and well worth seeking out. (I’m not taking this piss here either.)

  12. 72
    pink champale on 26 Nov 2011 #

    worth noting* that the riff is pretty much identical to mercury rev’s ‘syringe mouth’, which is great in pretty much the same ways.

    good to see the world class doltishness of parsons getting an airing. at about this time he published a book titled [steel yourselves] ‘dispatches from the front line of popular culture’

    *as in probably not at all worth noting

  13. 73
    lonepilgrim on 26 Nov 2011 #

    @ 52 & 72 I can confirm from my limited experiment that ‘No Limit’ fits the opening riff from ‘Down on the street’ pretty well

  14. 74
    Tommy Mack on 27 Nov 2011 #

    Re 73: It is just the same notes with a different feel isn’t it?

  15. 75
    Asher on 27 Nov 2011 #

    I never heard this version of ‘No Limit’ before. After punctum’s comment, I was expecting something a lot more epic from the “techno techno” moment. Something, at least, rapped loudly enough to merit typing it out in all caps. But it really isn’t that exciting.

  16. 76
    Alan Connor on 29 Nov 2011 #

    I have, I think, three main associations:

    1) ‘Wayne Kerr’ on Radio 1 cowing the band into singing “Douglas” after “reach for the sky” to make the song a tribute to Douglas Bader (this must have been in 1994 by my reckoning – time moved more slowly then perhaps);

    2) my band playing it on guitar even though our ‘sound’ was 99% Erasure-inspired keyboards ‘n’ synth drums

    3) Bobby Bluebell singing “techno techno (&c)” as one of the LIVE acts on TOTP, presumably with derision in mind – but possibly fun?!

  17. 77
    Ben Cook on 30 Nov 2011 #

    I think what set 2 Unlimited apart from other boy/girl eurodance duos of the time was that they had charisma and stage presence. They actually performed on the records too. They even wrote the lyrics (even if a lot of them were cut out for the UK..)

    The Real Thing was bloody brilliant.

    Like it or lump it No Limit is an era defining record and a true 90s classic.

  18. 78
    AndyPandy on 30 Nov 2011 #

    Re Rory @63:
    Yes ’19′ may have dated slightly in nearly 27 years many records in the vanguard of any movement do. But as the first hiphop (as opposed to rap)number 1 and the first record to get there using ways that post 1988 were to become common – ie white labels to clubs and pirate radio to build a buzz for weeks before release, little if any reliance on Radio 1 (as an aside I was wondering if it was the first number 1 to get there purely on dance club or pirate play – possibly ‘Double Barrel’ beats it here though)surely its boundary breaking merits and its success almost completely emanating from “the street” are underpresented in its score.

    on a different point did ‘No Limit’ really wind-up purists. Surely only the most humourless techno trainspotters (ie ones who went to clubs to watch the dj rather than dance if they went at all) let this annoy them. It was so not a part of the average dance scene persons world (not played in the clubs/on specialist radio – I don’t even remember if Kiss FM played it)that it wasn’t taken seriously enough to wind people up.

    An example of a record I can remember winding more people up were a record I can’t talk about (by a sell-out rave act “about arson”) that although again not played in clubs on pirate radio was written about in dance magazines (by writers who obviously would have beenn happier writing about rock music) and which was seen as a total sell out by the producer who’d been responsible for so many rave classics.

  19. 79
    wichita lineman on 30 Nov 2011 #

    “We do what we want and we do it with pride” I always found quite a sweet statement of intent, possibly anticipating the Parsons/purist/”it’s all kids’ music” knocks No Limit would get.

    Ray & Anita were pop stars in a way that Capella et al weren’t. Ray’s blanket seriousness was endearingly daft, especially given lines like “Faces faces everywhere!”. Anita looked fierce. I was a fan.

    Hook upon hook, this is a 9 for me.

  20. 80
    Conrad on 1 Dec 2011 #

    Mmm, there’s something slightly too enthusiastic about some of these responses, that it almost borders on the patronising.

    It’s a great riff, a great production, the TECHNO TECHNO bit is pure pop bliss like Mel and Kim’s tay tay tay, but the conventional verse lyric/chord sequence is a cop-out and waters down the impact, and the riff quickly becomes wearing.

    It’s still a lot more enjoyable to listen to than the KLF, but it’s no I Feel Love


  21. 81
    punctum on 1 Dec 2011 #

    Oh God forbid that we should be “too enthusiastic” about something!

    This notion is one of the reasons why Britain will be in receipt of United Nations emergency food relief parcels before the decade’s out.

  22. 82
    wichita lineman on 2 Dec 2011 #

    Re 80: Baffling. Conventional? Really? And I don’t think it’s I Feel Love, either. But neither is I Feel Fine. Or even I Feel Like Buddy Holly.

  23. 83

    I feel like chicken tonight

  24. 84
    Matthew Marcus on 7 Dec 2011 #

    I hated, hated, hated this when I was 18, but now that I’m a creaky 37 year old it seems more than tolerable. I think it’s easy to like things with the benefit of hindsight: this is the way the world went, the way lyrics and people’s idea of fun went, and history was written by the victors.

  25. 85
    enitharmon on 13 Dec 2011 #

    Haven’t got a Popular review to hook this to so I’ll squat here.

    Today, Kinephile takes a walk on Edinburgh’s wild side.

  26. 86
    Erithian on 1 Jan 2012 #

    Just realised I’d not yet commented on this. I like Tommy Mack’s assessment at #64 – “my generation’s Wild Thing” – which is key to understanding its appeal. Big cartoon video, huge riff, lots of urgency and lots of fun, never gets boring despite the gripes over the “lyrics”. Not my kind of thing but I found it impossible to dislike, even if the song didn’t give me as much pleasure as watching Anita sing it!

    Time for the annual review of how far we’ve come in this project. Here’s where we’ve been at the end of each calendar year:

    2003 Great Balls Of Fire (#66, Jan 58 – 5 years 2 months, 66 entries in the year)
    2004 A World Without Love (#167, Apr 64 – 6 years 3 months, 101)
    2005 Eleanor Rigby/Yellow Submarine (#222, Aug 66 – 2 years 4 months, 55)
    2006 Get It On (#302, Jul 71 – 4 years 11 months, 80)
    2007 Lonely This Christmas (#362, Dec 74 – 3 years 5 months, 60)
    2008 This Ole House (#477, Mar 81 – 6 years 3 months, 115 (plus the Pistols!))
    2009 I Want To Wake Up With You (#575, Aug 86 – 5 years 5 months, 98)
    2010 World In Motion (#646, Jun 90 – 3 years 10 months, 71)
    2011 No Limit (#685, Feb 93 – 2 years 8 months, 39)

    It’s the first year that Tom hasn’t averaged better than an entry per week, which shows how much Real Life has slowed things down – and with 32 number one singles in 2011, we’re barely catching up! Good luck with picking the pace up this year, as this is still my and others’ go-to site and the greatest pleasure on the web. Happy New Year everyone.

  27. 87
    Linda on 5 Jan 2012 #

    Seriously, you need to keep up with this blog. I love it too much to allow you to not recognise how great it is. Please continue!

  28. 88
    Tom on 5 Jan 2012 #

    Hi Linda (and Erithian) – I am really sorry for the slackness re. Popular updates: real life has very much intervened. I will have far fewer professional music writing gigs in the coming year, which isn’t necessarily something to celebrate BUT the upside is that I will have more time for Popular.

  29. 89
    Erithian on 5 Jan 2012 #

    Certainly not celebrating that bit, mate – sounds a bit of a downer if you miss out professionally, which is Real Life after all. And I (and no doubt Linda) don’t want to browbeat you over “slackness”, even if we do slip in the occasional unsubtle hint about how much we miss your shaggy dog stories…

    Good to see you and others on the pub crawl too, although do you regret that Kim Jong Deal gag?

  30. 90
    Snif on 5 Jan 2012 #

    Erithian, I’m getting more feeble-minded in my old age….can you please remind me of what each figure in the parentheses represents?

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