TIK TOK Vs SOFFY O – “Missy Queen’s Gonna Die (Martini Brothers Mix)”
ALPINESTARS – “Burning Up”
Oh irony! The two tracks I like best on City Rockers’ Futurism compilation – the two I could see myself learning to love – are the two which remind me most of the sparky or melancholy moods of, yes, indie pop. Well, “remind” in the sense that a racehorse might remind you of a rhino – there’s a family connection and maybe nothing more. But Tik Tok and Soffy O, and the Alpinestars, are drawing the charge their songs need from guitar music nonetheless.
And it works. Futurism is by no means a bad record – once I’d trained myself to stop spooning over the lost 1980s and take the tracks on their merits it turned out quite lovely, a glide through an enjoyably girly dance substyle. What the turns on the compilation have in common is a willingness to take every sneer thrown at electro-pop – it’s cold, it’s shallow, it’s unmusical, it’s a novelty, blah blah – and amplify them. Felix Da Housecat and Miss Kitten trax are so untouchably glassy, so deadpan-decadent that it makes you giggle, in a clubby, in-on-the-joke way.
So Futurism works by actually making the music rockboys always warned us about. But there’s an unexpected side-effect, which is that guitars here (nothing so tacky as a riff, but guitars nonetheless) suddenly really do have the power the rockboys claimed they had. After ten tracks of archness and anomie and powder and chrome, Aplinestars shuffle in with a sad New Order bass hook and it sounds so humble, weak and human you want to hug it. “Burning Up”. It’s not that Alpinestars are ‘sincere’ and Felix etc are ‘ironic’ (pointless categories with this music), it’s just that every party has its wallflowers and they’re often the people you most want to talk to.
The rest of “Burning Up” balances this hunched-up fragility (in the bass and the voice) with a rigid aloofness more typical of the Futurism style. The track works best in compilation context. “Missy Queen’s Gonna Die” is a different thing entirely: another link in a now-sound discopop chain that might go “Hard To Explain”-“Stroke Of Genie-ous”-“Get The Party Started”-“Missy Queen”-“Bootylicious”-“Silver Screen Shower Scene”. If we are to have guitars, let them be as plastic, as silvery, as rhythmic, as everything else around! “Missy Queen” has one of the best hooks on Futurism, which helps, but the guitars give it a bounce almost none of the other tracks try for.
Liking both these songs feels like a bit of a cheat, even a retreat – do I just want comfortable pleasures and not the really new? But no, I’ve been listening to stuff like Futurism half my life, I don’t think it’s quite that. Like the bootlegs using Fischerspooner or Adult, what these two songs suggest to me about nu-electro is how brilliantly it works as an additive element in the huge gleeful soundmix pop is these days, a flavouring rather than a feast in itself.