Shut Up And Dance, Dance Before the Police Come

Ian Gittins

By Ian Gittins

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Shut Up and Dance may have emerged at the tail-end of acid house but they were anything but loved-up E-vangelists. The attitudinal London duo of PJ and Smiley instead dispensed truculent, hip hop-influenced nuggets of street wisdom over jagged breakbeats and purloined pop samples and proved a significant, if under-acknowledged, influence on the emerging UK drum ‘n'bass scene.

Debut from groundbreaking London breakbeat duo brought low by their thrilling fecklessness.

The pair had originally began as producers and low-level music entrepreneurs, operating a small record label out of their East End bolthole, before stepping in front of the microphone for a couple of lairy singles and this belligerent album. Their forte was documenting the shady area where rave culture met local criminality, and the thrilling "This Town Needs a Sheriff" both celebrated and condemned the edgy delights of their deprived hood, Hackney, over shrill junglist beats that sounded as barbed as their words.

Shut Up and Dance were very London and, uniquely amongst the capital's techno-influenced late-'80s crews, they were also insurrectionists. The agitated "White White World" carried a Public Enemy-like polemic against the subtle but virulent racism that they perceived as blighting the capital's clubs'door policies while the ragga-tinged "Rest in Peace (Rap Will Never)" railed against the myriad failings of sucker MCs (basically, anybody but them) and vowed single-handedly to rescue the medium.

"PJ and Smiley"'s serrated beats and audacious arrogance made Dance Before the Police Come a compelling experience but ultimately the latter quality was to prove their undoing. The pair exhibited a disdainful attitude towards copyright law, sampling Duran Duran's "The Reflex" on the album's title track and Eurythmics'"Sweet Dreams" on the house noir of "Lamborghini," and eventually an army of major-label lawyers seeking financial redress bankrupted the upstart duo and their label. Yet anybody looking for an aural memento of what it was to live on the lewd, up-for-it streets of London as the acid house dream soured need look no further than here.