Posts from 9th April 2002

Apr 02

Duel 2002! Round 1 Match 15

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Duel 2002! Round 1 Match 15

Which of these bands is worse?

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Originally this Duel! was set to feature the White Stripes, but despite their featuring in that horribly smug Radio 6 advert (‘We play what we like — as long as it’s been in Q.’) they’ve been dislodged in favour of a greater menace. Nickelback have in just a month or two firmly staked a claim to recognition in the highest echelons of contemporary rock awfulness. They all look like they were raised in the forest by guitar shop workers, and if you can make it out through the grunting their big hit is about how Mr Nickel and Mr Back are peeved with their exes for reminding them continually what hopeless knobheads they are. Good work ladies.

But Nickelback’s opposition is no pushover. PRML SCRM have 17 years of ear-bothering experience, and though they’ve been quiet recently the memories have not faded — during the Duel! selection process there was a clamour for their inclusion. ‘Remember SWSTK YS!’ ‘Think of ‘Rocks’!’ Some might say that the biggest gap in all pop is the gap between what Bobby Gillespie thinks he’s doing (insurrectionary meltdown punk-dub-rock, at least recently) and what he’s actually doing (slightly trendier karaoke). Either of these bands would be well-deserving of a coveted Round 2 berth.


Alas! The Scandinavian presence in Duel! is wiped out by a strong vote for Stipe’s dwindling crew of non-insane automatons. Not a Duel! that captured your imagination, this one:

‘Don’t really think either is terrible. REM is irrelevant, Hives barely register with me yet. My dodgy reasoning is nothing good from REM in ages, and that THAT Hives song is OK. It’s so obviously some other song, but I can’t pin it down. Hey Mickey/Song 2/The Passenger bootleg ahoy.’

‘So, so awful.

And yet so completely dull. I am not quite certain if REM are now the worst band in the world, but they are without a doubt the most boring.

REM are such ragingly useless non-entities now that the only reason people can even remember them is for having idiotic air-rage chuckleheads and smug Courtney Love groupies in the band.’

‘Vote ’em down – justice to the wronged BA Cabin Crew’

‘It’s really the length of torture that is the issue here. The Hives could die a quick “What were we thinking” death next year whereas REM have been slowly sticking bamboo shoots under our nails for what feels like an eternity. You end up losing all sense of time and rationale which prolly explains thei success and most Virgin radio listeners..’

‘if only for foisting ‘shiny happy people’ upon the planet, it can only be REM. Can we vote for Placebo soon please?’

‘I like a few REM songs but they suck now and even their fans admit it. The Hives, on the other hand, are GRATE! Who knew the Swedes did anything other than produce blonde, perky popsies?’

‘The Hives are Law — REM are crime.’

The editorship of

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The editorship of Smash Hits is up for grabs, according to No Rock And Roll Fun (which has been dead good lately) – Blimey! This is our big chance to get the yoof of today talking in ludicrous ILX in-crowd slang! Next fortnight’s coverline – “Who Are S Club Juniors (And Can We Eat Them)?”

TIK TOK Vs SOFFY O – “Missy Queen’s Gonna Die (Martini Brothers Mix)” ALPINESTARS – “Burning Up”

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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.