City Rockers Presents Futurism

I first heard “Sunglasses at Night” by Tiga and Zyntherius in a ridiculously packed club. Despite the lighting which bordered on offensive and the sheer wall of sound in front of me, I liked it. It’s a brooding, nervy track, dominated by a relentless pulsing bassline, the type that might scare small children. Of course, no-one could dance to it. I’d say “none of us”, but we’re not talking about the “rave family” here. This isn’t House music, and it doesn’t belong to you or your brothers.

In fact, looking around the dancefloor, there were people making sharp pronounced movements, and others swaying slowly like idiots. I sat down. I’d already conceded that dancing to a Dave Clarke techno set while not under the influence of drugs was near impossible, and now the softer moments were proving troublesome too.

But then “Sunglasses at Night”, like most of the 2CD Futurism album it appears on, is electronic music with a distinct rock ethic. And if you want to divide a dancefloor, or if you want to make your audience compete with each other, hell; if you want to turn a dance venue into an indie club you could do a lot worse than play a Felix Da Housecat track. I’ve seen rooms of people dancing awkwardly to “Last Nite” by The Strokes. I say awkwardly because how can there ever be a universal physical connection to Rock music, apart from singing of course? Futurism, like lots of modern rock, is layered and frenetic. It doesn’t rely on repetition. It’s the bad dancer’s nightmare, and the show-off’s chance to shine. If The Strokes ever “do a Kid A”, they’ll end up making an electro album.

With vocals from the likes of Peaches and the ubiquitous Miss Kittin, one gets the impression that some of the artists here are aiming for a robotic drone all of their own – glamourous and sexy, and at the same time it’s wonderfully empty. This isn’t an uplifting album, rather a soundtrack to some trashy riches to rags movie. If you don’t believe me, skip to Royksopp’s tremendous reworking of Felix Da Housecat’s “What Does It Feel Like”.

The artists featured on the album specialize in taking the darker elements of today’s techno, fusing them with elements of pop and rock, then applying the mascara. There are few climaxes, few peaks or troughs, on Futurism. Instead, it’s a frenetic and incessant buzz, and in this sense it’s every bit as immersive as a techno set. But, inevitably, it’s not without a few forgettable points. “I Don’t Care” by Dexter is a dull affair, which does nothing other than bridge the gap between “Sunglasses at Night” and the the manically fantastic “La La Land” by Green Velvet. Similarly “Superbike” by Fat Truckers is out of place and out of date, a truly dreadful track which sounds like a bad blunder by a Norman Cook imitator.

But more often than not Futurism is a fine collection. “Grab My Shaft” by Louie Austen featuring Peaches is a super track, a sexy air to ground House missile with lyrics which are not to be shown to small children or OAPs. Another highlight is the Martini Brothers remix of Tok Tok Vs Soffy O’s “Missy Queen’s Gonna Die. The intro comes on like “Blue Monday” before exploding in your face, to become the slickest rock song you’ll hear this year. Miss Kittin supplies the murderous vocal for Golden Boy on “Rippin Kittin”, a twisted pop trainwreck of a song. FC Kahuna’s “Glitterball” is a rare uptempo moment, with a bassline recalling “Surrender” era Chemical Brothers. It’s nothing phenomenally new, but it whets the appetite for their forthcoming debut. The oddest inclusion is perhaps the Kitten and the Hacker remix of Kernkraft 400’s crossover smash “Zombie Nation”. Every drop is squeezed out of the central riff of the original, and then the whole thing is stripped down until it’s just right for Miss Kittin – her again – to drawl over. Her ubiquity here almost makes her whole schtick believable. Almost.

So sure this may be an aloof album lyrically and musically, but then if I can dream about guns in Compton, I don’t see why cocaine in New York or champagne in Geneva is so wrong. Because this is rock and roll. This has all the sleaze, arrogance, and plain smut of all the worst rock excesses. If you come to Futurism looking for the future, you may be disappointed: this is right here and this is right now.