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Mar 15

OXIDE AND NEUTRINO – “Bound 4 Da Reload (Casualty)”

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#857, 6th May 2000

bound reload “Certain guys can’t face the fact of what we’ve done
Sold over a quarter of a million
Casualty went straight to number one
And still they wanna cuss come on
Oh yeah about the Casualty theme?
Well no one controls the scene
So you do what you want and you do what you like and you do what you please”
– Oxide and Neutrino, ‘Up Middle Finger’

There’s more than one way to make an 18 year old into a pop star. Craig David was a record industry dream – UK garage as a cradle for a new generation of international stars. Oxide and Neutrino represented a different future, one the biz had far less idea how to cope with in the long term. Though for now, and for the duo’s record label East West, the success of “Bound 4 Da Reload” was actually business as usual: find a hot sound in the clubs or on the pirates, license it, push it onto the charts. The main opposition to Oxide and Neutrino’s overnight success came from within garage – the pirates and the clubs in open disagreement. “Reload”, belligerent, snotty and unsophisticated, was a flashpoint record for the scene’s internal politics and anxieties.

So what was the problem? It was partly generational. A few months later, the duo scored another hit, their third: “Up Middle Finger” was a scornful, bitter attack on the garage tastemakers who’d disdained their debut. The people they had in mind were DJs in or near their thirties who helped nurture UK Garage into a take on dance music that balanced the soulful and the futurist. DJ Spoony of the Dreem Teem, for instance, whose recent elevation to Radio 1’s resident garage expert made him one of the most powerful individuals in the country’s pop scene – and who was not especially enamoured of what the younger MCs and posses (like Oxide and Neutrino’s sprawling So Solid Crew) were doing. Those kids – late teens, early 20s – were starting to turn turning their back on the smoother 2-step sound and pushing darker, harder-edged elements from hip-hop and rave further up in the music.

It’s possible to make too much of these internal divisions, to overplay how brutal a break productions like DJ Oxide’s represented. After all, you only have to go back a year or two – to 187 Lockdown’s thrilling “Gunman” – to find the mocking, timestretched samples, skeletal keyboard refrains and gunshot sounds of “Bound 4 Da Reload” on a Top 40 hit. But the split was real: there’s no sign of Oxide and Neutrino on early 2001 compilations from established garage brands like Pure Silk or Twice As Nice, and “Up Middle Finger” showed how keenly the snubs were felt.

Outside the context of garage beefs and generational splits, in the wider world of pop this blog explores, “Reload” is a shocking, Martian interruption, the charts’ transmitter suddenly hijacked. Again, you can overplay this angle. It’s not the fact that a couple of kids had made a white label and hit No.1 that surprises, or even that it’s kids from South and East London coming up via pirate radio. Tracks had been jumping from the pirate stations to white labels to the Top 5 for over a decade by this point. It’s harder to imagine an Oxide And Neutrino style success now than it was then, but that’s another issue.

But the explanations don’t account for the sound of this thing. Other white label successes tended to be tracks whose pop qualities were a little more overt. When SL2 or even early Prodigy – the obvious precursor to Oxide and Neutrino, as the duo’s “No Good 2 Me” made official – made it into the Top 10, their records worked as pop crossover. They were a dayglo filter on more subterranean activities. “Reload” has a massive gimmick for its hook – the theme tune from BBC hospital soap Casualty, which meshes with the production eerily well – but that’s all it concedes to pop. The rest of the track is raw in a way number ones very rarely are. Most chart music colours itself in, filling up its spaces to fill the airwaves better. Not so “Reload”, bumping along on deep bass that makes the track feel empty and jagged, its ideas and incidents splintered. A repeated sample from Lock, Stock and 2 Smoking Barrels blasts a hole in the song where its chorus should be – on the video, a bad-trip travelogue through a rave, kids bend double in agony when the sample hits, then look up and crack into a grin. The malign hilarity of the track summed up. “Reload” is – as much as a 250,000 selling record can be – hermetic, existing on its own terms not pop’s or even garage’s: you either know them, accept them, or turn away baffled.

Beyond its starkness, “Reload” has another weapon: its vocalist. Neutrino is not likely to feature on many lists of the great British MCs – his thick, phlegm-clotted rapping has never been especially expressive, and even within So Solid he was quickly overshadowed by other vocalists. But he’s perfect and important here, because his flow on “Reload” feels so faithful to the sound of his era’s pirate radio. Judging from surviving YouTube clips – it would be wrong to pretend I was there, listening, at the time – he has simply turned up and done exactly what he would have done over this beat, mid-show on Delight FM. It’s in the way he rolls out the MCs arsenal, from prepared bars, to scatting, to call and response, to simply marking time over the beat – “Digga digga dee, digga digga dee”. Neutrino is what turns “Reload” from a novelty into a snapshot. The only precedent I can think of for this at Number One is “The Special AKA Live!” – another short, unvarnished sketch of club music and subculture, plonked at the top of the charts with little compromise and less explanation.

And there’s something else vital about Neutrino – the fact he’s on the track at all. Oxide and Neutrino might not have been the first kids to break from Brixton bedrooms and parties into the Top Ten, but however important MCs were on radio or in the clubs during the rave era, they hardly made it onto records. With the rise of MCs on record, UK garage and its people had a voice, a host of voices. Once that door had opened it would be hard to close.

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Comments

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  1. 1
    flahr on 2 Mar 2015 #

    Obviously I know Scottish Football Administration about this or the context of this, but man, just listen to that sound: [bound 7 da reload]

  2. 2
    Ricardo on 2 Mar 2015 #

    Fantastic record, still to this day. It might not have survived in terms of recurrent airplay or even in critical terms. But just as all those ‘ardkore tunes paved the way for jungle, “Bound 4 Da Reload” is essentially proto-grime. Of course a certain other bunny featuring this lot’s bruvs was even more instrumental on that respect. But a milestone is a milestone, so “Bound 4 Da Reload” it is.

  3. 3
    Tom on 2 Mar 2015 #

    Yeah, we have lots of opportunity – far more than I imagined in the early years of Popular – to talk about grime here, so I didn’t mention it in this one.

    Oh, another obvious precedent- even down to the name really – “Double Barrel”. Which got the same mark as this and the Special AKA if I remember myself rightly.

  4. 4
    Tom on 2 Mar 2015 #

    Other O & N singles/tracks I can remember: “No Good 2 Me” is a bit unneccesary, “Up Middle Finger” is fantastic but SO petty, “Devil’s Nightmare” is their other early standout – awesome bit of garage goth. I don’t remember the second album single(s) at all – “Rap Dis” and another one.

  5. 5
    Ricardo on 2 Mar 2015 #

    You’re right, we will. It’s just that – and without wanting to give too much away – those will probably mostly be in the sense that it had to lose the grime, in order to get the hit.

  6. 6
    swanstep on 2 Mar 2015 #

    This one’s new to me…and a bit of a shock I think it’s fair to say! The gunshots and general abrasiveness remind me of Dre’s ‘The Day the Niggaz Took Over’, a monster of a track that, needless to say, never bothered the top of the charts in the US or anywhere else. So this record feels like some sort of signal achievement (’90s chart-pillaging sonic blasts like ‘Setting Sun’ and ‘Firestarter’ are probably useful comparisons) – count me impressed:
    7 (may go higher as I listen more to it this week)

  7. 7
    weej on 2 Mar 2015 #

    I was confused at this by the time, not sure whether it was brilliant or ridiculous, not realising that the answer was “both.” Now it just sounds a few years ahead of the curve, though the concept of the track (using that casualty theme is a masterstroke) gives me expectations that it can never really live up to.

    This is a good place to leave this article from 2002 in which Alexis Petridis accompanies Oxide & Neutrino to a gig at SxSW(!) where they are accompanied by My Vitriol(!!) and Elbow(!!!!!)

  8. 8
    JoeWiz on 2 Mar 2015 #

    A real shock to the system this, a cold, almost disturbing sound that meant nothing to me in 2000 but now seems oddly vital and necessary. The song itself does nothing for me, but in comparison to some of the cartoonish sounds of UK Garage we’ll encounter in due course, this sounds quite stark.
    Should’ve snuck a Derek Thompson cameo in the video, though.

  9. 9
    pink champale on 2 Mar 2015 #

    As I said when this was covered on Which Decade… the first time I encountered B4DR was approriately absurd

    While I was at a bus stop in Peckham a car fully of slightly dorky white teens pulled up, windows down, heads nodding awkwardly, absolutely blasting out this laughable…thing. All bass and Casualty and gunshots. A passing black girl took dire exception and unleashed a lecture of awsome fury at them about the inadvisability of them coming round here playing that shit. They slunk off and I was amused.

    Imagine my suprise when it subsequently transpired that this bizarre thing was a) actually a proper record and b) was number one (of the two, I think a) is somehow the more surprising). It’s brilliant of course. As Weej says, ridiculous too, with the two qualities being indivisible.

    (Incidentally, I’d always assumed the girl’s beef was that the blokes were idiots pretending to be hard [insert Guy Ritchie reference) or something, but reading Tom’s excellent write up, perhaps it was actually the Garage Schism in action).

    And finally, while mockney gangster films were clearly a massive pox (still are! Jeff from Coupling was in one on Film 4 last night) I have to say that “look, can everyone stop getting shot” is a great line.

  10. 10
    Tom on 2 Mar 2015 #

    #9 Yes this sample is basically the only good thing to come out of the entire woeful trend!

  11. 11
    Alan on 2 Mar 2015 #

    I’d defend just “Lock, Stock…”. A friend at the time described it as Wodehouse with guns which I still think holds well (substitute a cow-shaped creamer jug in place of guns)

  12. 12
    Alan on 2 Mar 2015 #

    i reckon this is within the purlieus of mash-up country too

  13. 13
    wichitalineman on 2 Mar 2015 #

    This is probably the place to mention my obsession with music from “the year 2000”, a date that seemed like an unimaginable future all the way through my childhood and teenage years.

    Bound 4 Da Reload is the Popular entry that probably comes closest to what would have sounded unimaginable in, say, 1966. It’s so raw, unnerving and (as people have already pointed out) hilarious.

    I completely missed it at the time, so airplay must have been fleeting. My first reaction on hearing B4DR a few years back was ‘what the hell is that’? After several listens I couldn’t work out if it was awful or amazing – which is usually the sign that it’s a record I will absolutely love on the tenth play (see also Adventures on the Wheels of Steel, J&MC’s Upside Down).

  14. 14
    Rory on 2 Mar 2015 #

    Great comments here – a new and confusing listen to me too, ridiculous and possibly even brilliant. The sample in lieu of chorus sounds utterly fresh in our Popular context, but perhaps I’ve missed a parallel somewhere. It’s the last 30-40 seconds that swung me on first listen, swing batter batter bound bound for da reload… no firm score from me yet while I think about it, but could be a 7.

  15. 15
    Tom on 2 Mar 2015 #

    #14 It’s always the way, though, you wait 47 years for a Number One to arrive that confidently breaks its momentum with a spoken-word film reference and then two come along at once…

  16. 16
    Inanimate Carbon God on 2 Mar 2015 #

    I don’t really get this. But it’s got it. If you know what I mean.

    A high 6.

  17. 17
    enitharmon on 2 Mar 2015 #

    When DJs in their late 20s are the boring old farts I suspect that this music is way beyond my ken. It doesn’t speak to me at all but I wonder if somebody might give me a handle on it and its signifiers so I can read it.

    For what it’s worth:

    neutrino: an insubstantial thing of no discernible mass which interacts only minimally with its environment and is believed on occasions to travel backwards in time.

    oxide: rust.

  18. 18
    enitharmon on 2 Mar 2015 #

    As postscript to my previous comment, it’s a very male kind of music, isn’t it! Bordering on the misogynist I should think. There are female faces in the video only being passive on the dancefloor (and there’s not much vertical expression of a horizontal desire going on) As a woman I find something deeply unpleasant in there. Is that intended?

  19. 19
    Tom on 2 Mar 2015 #

    #18 Yes – it’s very much in that Stonesy line of male conflicts and braggadocio – though actually in O&N’s case less about dominating or possessing women, all the internecine conflict and bragging is about being the biggest dog in the yard: it’s a very masculine, institutionalised world, quite sour and blokey. And this is definitely a dimension in the split within garage – the older DJs were mostly family men by this point, the fact UK Garage got women into the clubs was a point of pride after the (again quite masculine) world of rave.

    I think I should say that when I’m describing the schism I’m not taking sides exactly – “Reload” is great, the music that eventually developed from all this is often amazing, but something was definitely lost along the way. The more aspirational/upmarket garage stuff, and its poppy end, is (I reckon) wonderful pop music. The rejection of that in favour of grittier no-girls-allowed stuff is something you see again and again and again in music history from the 60s to now, so much so it’s probably inevitable. But whatever good comes of it it’s always also a regressive step.

  20. 20
    Tom on 2 Mar 2015 #

    It’s a great shame that I don’t get to cover Mis-Teeq or Sweet Female Attitude, basically, who would both be a good counterpoint to this.

  21. 21
    Steve Mannion on 2 Mar 2015 #

    Hated at first. The timestretching and the Lock Stock samples (let alone the Casualty theme) all felt immediately dated and charmless (as Tom says earlier Garage-and-related tracks had absorbed elements of Jungle’s primary palette already to strong effect) and something I’d been letting go of as the 90s played out.

    The idea of it being ‘Charly’ for people ten years younger occurred to me but although that seems reasonable in terms of its function I found its form comparatively lacking (despite the increased vocal element it felt more cynical and less inspired).

    But by ‘Devil’s Nightmare’ (Gothstep indeed, and what a great title) I was relenting and by the time Grime itself emerged as a thing I felt fewer reasons to actively dislike it/them.

    It also might be one of the first ‘The Box’ #1’s – getting lots of play on that channel through viewer requests. The Box was also the first time I heard/saw So Solid (loved ‘Oh No (Sentimental Things)’, hated ’21 Seconds’ – go figure) and Genius Cru’s also fun ‘Boom Selection’ – in the days before Channel U a good heads up on what (London) teens were into.

  22. 22
    lonepilgrim on 2 Mar 2015 #

    it’s always a delight for me when the UK public pushes a dark, dystopic song to the number 1 spot and this (for me anyway) fits into a lineage that includes ‘Paint it Black’, ‘Ghost Town’, ‘Two Tribes’, ‘Killer’ and ‘Firestarter’.
    This tune benefits from its lo-fi production values – a Cubist collage of contemporary references held together with a rattling rhythm, pulsing bass and chattering rhymes – punctured with (what sounds to me like) First Person Shooter style gunfire and the sample from ‘Lock, Stock, etc.’

  23. 23
    thefatgit on 2 Mar 2015 #

    I was thinking that B4DR is very dark and oppressive. A lot of the more chart-friendly UKG was basically relationships and partying, and along comes Oxide & Neutrino with Casualty and Lock Stock samples, and it was as far removed from “Sweet Like Chocolate” as you could get. It works excellently in conveying what a bad trip feels like.(8)

  24. 24
    chelovek na lune on 2 Mar 2015 #

    Makes me think of a slightly grittier relation of what Shut Up And Dance records might have put out 15 years earlier – the sound of pirate stations in inner London (West London for this lot; East London for that lot.). A very welcome no 1.

    (7)

  25. 25
    Billy Hicks on 2 Mar 2015 #

    Completely missed me. I had no idea this one existed until reading a website around 2003/4 called ‘Poptastic’, a brilliant chart review site long disappeared from the web but can be viewed on Web Archive ( http://web.archive.org/web/20040414172056/http://www.hogweed.org/poptastic/comm2000.html – spoilers for the rest of the year! ) . As he listed all the #1s of 2000 and reviewed them, this was one of the ones that made me go “Wait, what?”.

    But back in 2000 eleven year old me would have completely hated this anyway. 2-step garage is, to this day, one of my least favourite dance trends of the last 25 years although the mid-2000s ‘loop an 80s sample for three minutes’ era was definitely the genre’s lowest point in the charts. It’s got a fun novelty to it but it’s not something I’d listen to often, given all the trance anthems released on almost a weekly basis through 2000 there’s much, much stronger than this around.

    The story at #9 reminds me of a very infamous summer 2004 bunny that was being played at my cousin’s house in Birmingham that I assumed was just some local kids messing around on pirate radio for a laugh. When I found out that the bloody thing was number 1 I was absolutely astonished.

  26. 26
    Ricardo on 2 Mar 2015 #

    #21 – If I coud search to find a “Charly”/”B4DR” equivalent in more recent music, I’d wager Skrillex’s “Bangarang” would probably be it.

  27. 27
    flahr on 2 Mar 2015 #

    #26 – Wiki says that Christgau called it a “garden-variety good record” and gave it A-! (“Bangarang”, that is, not “Bound”.) I agree in the sense that it is DULLY CONVENTIONAL BAH HUMBUG (but also good).

  28. 28
    mapman132 on 2 Mar 2015 #

    I probably would have hated this at the time – too violent, disjointed, etc. – but now I find myself liking it. It’s actually quite catchy: I’ll give it 7/10.

    Probably not of much interest to others here, but the geogeek in me has to note that this would’ve been #1 the week that GPS selective availability was turned off, ushering in the modern era of navigational devices and digital mapping. Thus it was also #1 when the first geocache was placed.

    The Hot 100 at the time was in the midst of another Santana marathon: “Maria Maria” featuring The Product G & B.

  29. 29
    Steve Mannion on 2 Mar 2015 #

    Possibly useful listening – a chapter from my Ultramix series focussing on 2 Step/UKG stuff from the time featuring a decent contrast of its dark and light sides and some of my personal populist favourites in Zed Bias ‘Neighbourhood’ (search also Zed’s ‘Sound Of The Pirates’ mix from 2000), B-15 Project’s ‘Girls Like Us’ and Wookie’s ‘Scrappy’: https://www.mixcloud.com/ghostfood/ghost-food-ultramix-0004/

  30. 30
    enitharmon on 2 Mar 2015 #

    @8 A good Derek Thompson link might have been a sample from the (far superior IMHO) The Long Good Friday. N’est-ce pas?

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