I was young, hip and groovy enough to buy Nasty Rox’s debut single “Escape From New York” when it came out (on 12″, natch). I thought it was okay, but obviously not impressed enough to buy the subsequent album, “Ca$h”, released and executive-produced by Trevor Horn and his ZTT label. Presumably no one else did either because Nasty Rox Inc. were never heard from again after this.
But having come across the album for a quid recently I’ve been enjoying backtracking to 1988 and reacquainting myself with this short-lived band who helped pioneer the dance/rock crossover. Or perhaps I should say partially enjoying, because the rock band elements sound bloody awful and dated in a way only late ’80s rock bands can.
The only thing, then and now, that ever gave the group a smidgen of musical credibility was the sure-handed turntable skills of C.J. Macintosh. He’s the fella who did all the clever scratching on M/A/R/R/S’s “Pump Up The Volume”. Along with Coldcut, he was a precocious talent who cut his teeth spinning at some of the earliest UK hip hop/dance parties in the mid-80s. Yet still it’s a mystery how such an unassuming-looking white english kid (23 when he made this record) got that good, that quick.
Consequently, it’s the tracks where C.J. is most prominent that still sound most impressive, especially on “Wooba Wubbaa I” with it’s dexterous manipulation of then-fresh samples like the Moog intro to The J.B.s “Blow Your Head”, and pitched-up, feminised Travis Bickle plaintively asking “Are You Talking To Me?” over and over again. “Wooba Wubbaa II” is equally satisfying – a moody, minimalist variation of Bomb The Bass’s “Beat Dis” with rippling, portentous piano loops – like DJ Shadow, a decade too early. Unfortunately C.J. never seems to have become the dj megastar he clearly deserved to be. I suppose it didn’t help that he allowed his career to be dragged down by working with dodgy groups like Nasty Rox Inc.