Back at the Lionheart Studios, our local reggae forerunners Urban Lions have rinsed an alternative style for the single from their forthcoming debut LP, it’s out today, and a sound system killer.
Some tunes launch themselves at me, instant like, Champion Sound is a grower, creeps up on me after a couple of listens. This doesn’t make them any worse, just sometimes there’s an innovative modification in style which takes ears some adapting to. Unlike Urban Lions’ steppa dub tunes we’ve reviewed in the past, ‘See Me Rise’ and ‘Forward to The Sound’, this one partially retains the fashion, but the riddim nods heavily to dancehall.
Rather akin to when Dreadzone released Once Upon a Time in 2005 and I confessed I’d lost track of their progress somewhat. Upon first listen and expecting the loops of nineties charged techno-dub crossed with creative sampling, I was like, oh, it’s got a dancehall edge. Yet I think Champion Sound’s direction is justified, particularly around these waters where what little reggae we receive is archetypical, what we’d consider “traditional one-drop reggae,” as when Bob Marley and the Wailers ruled the day. Elsewhere reggae has moved on, dramatically. Full points to those Urban Lions for pushing us up to date!
Unacquainted, the sparse beats of raw dancehall can feel alien to us aging country bumpkins, vocally lending closer from Jamaica’s folk music, mento, than the ska sound which belched this preconceived model at us through the punk and skinhead cultures. Yet contemporary pop wouldn’t be the same without it. Splicing brief toasting solos into a pop tune, like Little Mix featuring Sean Paul; such a cliché since The Soup Dragons gave Junior Reid an indie platform in 1990. With that thought in mind, isn’t it overdue to give dancehall its fuller affirmation, to start to mould an independent inspiration from? You don’t need answer that; yes, it is!
Yet Urban Lions don’t overkill the angle, retaining their style, and not considering hiring a dancehall rapper to guest or some such puerile concept, gives it a unique edge and something which feels more like home than attending a Top Cat V Capleton soundclash in Rae Town, Kingston. Yeah, it’s exceptional and affable; love it and can vision it lifting a festival marque or ten this summer. For the more outdated crusty-heads, there’s a melodica dub cut on the flip akin to Augustus Pablo, which rocks, rockers style.
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