Urban Dance Squad

Urban Dance Squad

Mental Floss for the Globe

Triple X

Urban Dance Squad

Life ‘N Perspectives of a Genuine Crossover

Triple X

Urban Dance Squad

Persona Non Grata

Triple X

Urban Dance Squad

Planet Ultra

Triple X

First, let me commend Triple X on doing a reissue right. These discs, representing Urban Dance Squad’s four US releases, are available individually. More importantly, all artwork appears to be duplicated verbatim. Even more importantly, each disc comes accompanied by an entire second disk with a live set from around the same time as the original album. This is exactly how things like this should be done — make it as close to the original as you can, then throw in some luscious goody for the true fans.

“Original” would be the key word here. If the oldest of this albums (almost a decade) were to be paraded as new stuff, it would pretty much fool anyone. Urban Dance Squad’s mix of funk, rap, rock, jazz and Low Country sensibilities may have had only a brief flash in American alternative radio (historically speaking, that is), but even today, their sound would be classified as progressive and original, and not at all dated.

Mental Floss for the Globe was the band’s Stateside debut. Between their tight playing, diverse influences, and off-the-cuff moments, the band stomped flat any possible box that could contain them. “Deeper Shade of Soul,” with its slow groove and old school delivery, was the ultimate head-nodder, as were other tracks like the slippery yet rubbery “No Kid.” The band ably proved that they could rip through the rough numbers with the best of them, too. Life ‘N Perspectives continued a similar trend, sending exploratory tendrils into some territory not covered previously.

Persona Non Grata saw the band lapse into the same rut that was being worn by 311 and Rage Against the Machine at the time. Perhaps the departure of DJ DNA is to blame — regardless, it was as if rather than using its lead on other funk-rock-rap acts to its creative advantage, Urban Dance Squad dropped back to join the rest of the pack. Still, I’ll have to admit that overall it’s no worse than anything in the rapidly-growing category, and when it works, it’s still much better.

The last album on this set, Planet Ultra , is clearly the result of UDS’ experience and growth in the music industry. Key figures were recruited to help with production (Andrew Weiss, Rob Schnapf/Tom Rothrock) and things came out a bit loopy, though not exactly blazing new territory. I’d have to say this is my second favorite of the lot. The live disc accompanying Planet Ultra , a fall 1997 show at NYC’s Continental, features the return of turntablist DNA for a truly sizzling chunk of funk.

Pick and choose your favorites — Mental Floss is definitely a must-have, but there’s something for just about any branch of the tree UDS planted that you may care to swing from.

Triple X Records, P.O. Box 862529, Los Angeles, CA 90086; http://www.triple-x.com

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