Friday, November 20, 2009

The Decade in Music #3: Electroclash

It's 2002, and I find myself entirely seduced by the genre they're calling Electroclash — a genre that's going to vanish quicker than you can say "I too would like wear my sunglasses at night."

Now, I suppose it’s just about conceivable that we’ll be having a nu-electro movement in a year or so. But the accelerating atomisation of dance music suggests otherwise. And who'd want it back?

But back then, I fell hard. I mean, what wasn’t wasn't to like? Frosty mittel-European vocals from bored models? Check. Spangly covers of obscure 80s classics. Definitely. Super-trebly synths? Par for the course.

First came the love: That'd be Kittenz & Thee Glitz from Felix Da Housecat. The genre's great albums can be enumerated on the fingers of one silvery mitten and, in truth, I’m not sure that even Kittenz counts as great. But the first five or six songs are a blueprint that not even Felix could improve upon. “Harlot”, “Walk With Me” and “Silver Screen Shower Scene” are among the scene’s ur-songs, dirty synthy poseurs all of them, strutting and pouting and full of gakky disdain like a singing Helmut Newton photo.

The affair levels out: we go to a house-party, science postgraduate students, somewhere out East. I see fit to commandeer the stereo and replace whatever anaemic nonsense they’re playing with a hardcore electro-clash compilation, featuring the wondrous “Sunglasses at Night” from Tiga and Zyntherius, the disturbing “Rippin’ Kittin” (Jude Rogers has more here) from Miss Kitten and the Golden Boy and, um... not a great deal else that's worth remembering. Oddly, the popularity and good vibes I had thought to generate were not forthcoming. People can be so fickle right?

It’s all over: Fischerspooner, handed somewhere in the precinct of a million quid by Ministry of Sound, did two great things early on before buggering off into an amyl-scented fug. One was "Emerge", a bona-fide classic. The second was their where-you-there? gig at the Arches in London. Six songs, all mimed to a backing track. Costume changes for each song. Fake blood. Wind machines. Strobes. The sort of ambition that seemed to vanish in the middle years of the British musical decade.

Electroclash as a genre was eagerly retired, even as its DNA metastasised into the chart mainstream. They'd be better and harder dance music later in the decade. But for the time there, these songs were my irresitably sexy shiny baubles of fun.

Here's "Emerge":

Here's "Rippin Kittin":

And "Sunglasses at Night":

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