Is it, is it wicked?: Each month one of our writers spends a week listening purely to a genre of music they don’t like. Sean McGeady chose UK Garage


It’s surprising how quickly nostalgia can be eclipsed. There’s only so many memories So Solid Crew can conjure. Even Daniel Bedingfield’s ‘Gotta Get Thru This’ doesn’t sustain me long. On a diet of flimsy rhythms, the onset of malnutrition is rapid. Dry eyes, brittle hair, mottled teeth – all the symptoms are there. It’s only been a day and I’m gaunt. I’m not convinced I can cope. It’s just a week, I think to myself, but a week is a long time to listen to nothing but UK Garage, just to get to the bottom of its recent resurgence. 

It’s the next big anniversary we’ve got to look forward to, now that Brit Pop has turned 20. And it feels like the celebrations have already started. But really, what got into us at the turn of the century? 

Imagine an auricular nightmare whose inhabitants express all the musical tact of a lobotomised Katy Perry, and all the lyrical dexterity of a lamb kofta. It exists. I’m soon lost in it. Everything’s so thin here. I’m scrambling for substance. I can’t find it. Where’s the kick drum?! Everything’s out of place.

Between pitch-shifted vocals and comedy sound effects, each track sounds like a drug-fuelled collision between Cubase and Cartoon Network. Repetition punctuated by springs and boings.

It’s so self-referential, too. Ms. Dynamite and Lisa Maffia, Craig David and Robbie Craig, repeatedly reciting their own names in some desperate attempt to recall their identities. I feel my identity slipping, too. My mind shuts down as a defense mechanism. I am losing myself.

It’s been days now. Something’s gone wrong. Am I finding merit in Mis-Teeq? Or is this auditory Stockholm syndrome? I’m capture-bonding with Artful Dodger; their debut album has me hooked. Do I like garage?

My hunger renewed, I search for something more modern. Toddla T doesn’t sate me. Mosca doesn’t fill me up. Disclosure is good. It’s tastier, more nutritious, perhaps because they’ve worked hardest at replicating the sound of 2000. They are to UK Garage what Kasabian are to Oasis. But it’s not pure. To OD on UKG you have to go back. Back to the old skool.

It’s been a week now. On the tube, I glance into the dark windows and catch my reflection mouthing the words to 3 of a Kind’s 2004 number one single ‘Baby Cakes’. I’m not even listening to it. My feet are moving too, involuntarily dancing to the hideous jaunt of the 2-step shuffle. I’m infected. It’s in my bones. There’s no way back. I like it. I like UK garage. I love UK garage.

Anger and disgust has given way to delirium. “Do you really like it?!” I ask some anonymous suited commuter. “Is it, is it wicked?!” He spits on me and gets off the tube.

Finally my mind and body gives way. My legs buckle. I collapse, foaming at the mouth. The drug is too powerful. London’s commuters don’t care. They’ve seen it all before. “It’s his own fault.”

I’m left tapping and choking on the Piccadilly Line, my body twitching in time to Shanks & Bigfoot’s ‘Sweet Like Chocolate’.

Listen to anything enough and you will become accustomed. You’ve heard Emeli Sande, right?