Posts from 28th October 1999

Oct 99

41. MEGA CITY TWO – “Darker Side Of Evil”

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Tom Ewing’s Top 100 Singles Of The 90s

In the original Predator film, one of a rash of ‘Nam-purging guns’n’grit stompers, Arnie defeats a lethally camouflaged, unknowable jungle assailant with good old-fashioned American brawn. It’s a bore, whereas its sequel has an impact way above its modest artistic ambitions. Predator II moves the action to the urban jungle, a head-beatingly obvious concept which nonetheless struck a very big chord with a lot of drum’n’bass producers, Mega City 2 included. You can see why: it’s a wicked film, fast and paranoid, depicting a city convulsed with violence where everyone’s at everyone else’s throat, one which is being invaded by something new, something technical and brutal, stealthy and infinitely dark.

I imagine Mega City 2 (whoever they were) in a weed-wreathed suburban bedroom studio, flicking between the brittle drumloops on their cheap Amigas and the videos in the corner, rewinding and snipping the heavy, spooky dialogue: “You can’t see the eyes of the demon until him come callin’…fuckin’ voodoo magic, man!”. That was the world darkside junglists wanted to create, where technology and the street mixed with black magic – how else could you explain the sounds (too fast, too evil) coming out of the speakers? Maybe if you heard it for the first time now “Darker Side Of Evil” would sound corny or silly, its beats a bit slow and its horror flick samples absurd. It’ll never sound that way to me. Mega City 2’s track is generic in the best way – a superb example of a superlative style. But still you could substitute it for any of a number of outstanding tracks. Boogie Times Tribe’s “Dark Stranger” perhaps, or Uncle 22’s swaggering “6 Million Ways To Die”, or Sub Nation’s “Scottie” (which manages to turn Star Trek, of all things, into jittery hyperspeed fear-funk). I finally picked Mega City 2, mostly because Predator II is my favourite action film, but also because it was on the first jungle tape I heard, and so the first time I came face-to-face with the 90s’ greatest musical unknown. That counts for a lot.

42. KLF – “Last Train To Transcentral”

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Tom Ewing’s Top 100 Singles Of The 90s

MU MU! MU MU! MU MU! KLF!“. No band understood the possibilities for mass lunacy contained in the new music as well as did the KLF. Their ‘Stadium House’ trilogy of singles – “What Time Is Love”, “3AM Eternal” and “Last Train…” are as ridiculous as the most reviled Aqua or Cartoons outing, and at the same time are awe-inpsiring, colossal, unprecedented dancefloor bulldozers. Read a copy of The Manual, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty’s pricelessly cynical dissection of the process needed to have a No.1 hit, and the depth of their understanding begins to show through. For novelty scam-mongers and pranksters, they knew the public well, particularly that strain in British pop listening which likes an occasional brush with the gigantic. The KLF did to house what Jim Steinman did to rock – they turned it into a thing of tottering grand opera absurdity, pushed the excitement in the music to hysteria, traded content for ever-huger gesture. The difference being that the KLF never lost track of what made the music special in the first place. Maybe because there’s less inherent ‘meaning’ in the KLF’s music, or maybe just because the ‘meaning’ in house music is less fragile, I don’t know, but no matter how vast “Last Train To Trancentral” sounds, it never loses its happy grip on your feet and heart.

“Last Train…” is the least bombastic of the ‘Stadium House’ triad, in truth, but it has the best moment of the three, maybe the best single moment of the 90s. The wonderfully named Ricardo Da Force drops his duff Euro-rapping and comes on like a music hall MC to introduce the KLF, “also known as the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu / Furthermore known as the JAMMS…” and the beat stops, and instead of a fanfare there comes this arpeggiated melody, deeply corny (but so what?) and infinitely pure, building up and up like the whole history of dance music has been leading up to this heavenly snatch of music. There have been build-ups before and there will be build-ups to come, but for me, nothing touches this. And then it fades away and the chanting begins – “MU MU! MU MU! MU MU! KLF!”. And you move from the sublime to ridiculous, and you find that they were the same place anyway.