9
Sep 20

#15: Looks good, sounds good, looks good, feels good too

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It’s the electroclash bracket! Er… kind of. Maybe half the tracks here would have some claim on that hotly contested genre, but the vibe of this bracket is “what might have been played at a hipster club night?”. Did I go to hipster club nights in 2001? Ah, not really.

It’s a good opportunity to revisit electroclash, though – one of 2001’s claims to a ‘movement’ or a microgenre or something new. Not that “new” was the word that jumped to mind at the time – it felt like snooty kids doing amoral 80s cosplay. Time has been kind to it, though. Partly because 80s cosplay has barely gone away in the 20 years since. Partly because that criticism has things the wrong way round: for me the best electroclash is club music more than it is pop music, so it’s not early synthpop updated with new technology; it’s electro-house with song elements injected. (This is why the best way to hear Fischerspooner’s “Emerge”, as proved by repeated experiment, is in a club at +8).

But that’s just my electroclash. For a genre that’s supposedly so elitist, it was extremely welcoming of different interpretations. Ladytron, for instance, might or might not get past the door (they were on the “pink album” – the 2CD Futurism compilation – so for me they count) but they were far more wholeheartedly a synth-pop outfit than anyone else in this group. At the other end of things, Vitalic is a techno producer but is there a more brutal electroclash-flavoured monster than “You Prefer Cocaine?” There is not.

At the centre, though, were Fischerspooner, Felix Da Housekatt, Miss Kittin, who fit the template I outlined – electrohouse tracks with repetitive, decorative song structures worn like couture or a peacock’s tail. This is the stuff that really wouldn’t fit anywhere other than 2001, and to me that’s worth looking kindly on.

There is, though, a lot more in this group looking to elbow them out of the way. At the top end, riddling but addictive genre exercises from Daft Punk and Basement Jaxx. Gerling’s muscular “Dust Me Selecta”, from Australia. Le Tigre’s all-too-prescient howl of frustration, “Get Off The Internet”. Purer, but slamming, dips into house and drum’n’bass from Armand Van Helden and Dillinja. And two bits of Girls On Top’s bastard pop, one of which at least will be more familiar than its title suggests.

The problem with this bracket, as always with the club ones, is crossover – a lot of this stuff was either not known or not trusted at the time even by people into Gorillaz, Kylie, Missy. In the 1990s poll, the harder dance music got pushed aside quickly – that could well happen again. Or electroclash and its rarefied cousins might have populist legs after all. Whatever happens, this is definitely one of the brackets which feels most like 2001 to me.

POTENTIAL WINNER: Keep an eye on “Playgirl” – one of Ladytron’s best pop songs, which is likely to give it a big advantage against some of the less accessible material here and should stand it in good stead once the genre barriers come down.

BEST TRACK: In a bracket with a lot of tracks that go very hard, Vitalic’s “You Prefer Cocaine” goes really VERY hard.

DARK HORSE: Freelance Hellraiser was ruled out of this poll, so Girls On Top carry the ‘bastard pop’ torch. They get two goes at it, too, which might help – if people look past (or enjoy!)  “We Don’t Give A Damn….”’s familiarity from its future life as a Sugababes hit, it might do rather well.

DISCOVERY: This is another group where I was familiar with most of it – maybe I was going to some hipster nightclubs – but one thing I had completely lost touch with was drum’n’bass, so the steamroller beats of Dillinja’s “Valve Sound” was like a headbutt from an old friend. 

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