Thursday, 6 September 2007
ON THE KLAXONS' RECEIPT OF THE MERCURY MUSIC PRIZE
'[Amy Winehouse] is fantastic, but her record is a retro record, and we have made the most forward thinking record since I don't know how long' - One of the Klaxons
Right. Much as I agree with the verdict on the Winehouse record, I feel this notion of the Klaxons as a 'forward-thinking' band deserves closer attention.
The Klaxons, as far as I can tell, are purveyors of competent melodic guitar rock, distinguishable from the surrounding mire of 99th generation Indie! bands because of an admirable (and long overdue) willingness to incorporate certain elements of the last 20 years of electronic dance music in their work.
Hence we are treated to copious amounts of repetition, falsetto vocals, the occasional synth and synth-aping bassline and guitar part, sporadic 4-kick drum-to-the-floor passages etc etc. There is also the propensity to cover classic rave tracks - 'The Bouncer', 'Not Over Yet' - and the attempts to invest live performances with some of the accoutrements of the rave scene: strobes, glowsticks, fluorescent clothing et al. For all of these things, and for providing a much-needed modernist jolt to a British alternative music scene currently wallowing in a second decade of endemic conservatism and rampant retroism, the Klaxons deserve our approbation.
However, the idea that this is some kind of radical new futurism, that the Klaxons have made 'the most forward thinking record since I don't know how long' [sic], needs some qualification. Like their antecedents the Stone Roses, the Klaxons are fundamentally a guitar band with a side-interest in dance music, with a sound much more closely related to classic psychedelic rock than to the rave records they tentatively borrow from, the most salient difference between the two bands being that the Klaxons are yet to produce anything as wildly futuristic and era-defining as 'Fools' Gold'.
Moreover, you hope that one day the Klaxons might banish the acid-solipsism that underlies their essentially romantic, nostalgic dream-pop, and that precludes their being able to recapture the one indispensible foundational element of old rave - its alchemical admixture of progressivism and communalism. 'Pop should be escapist', say the Klaxons, but modernisms and futurisms have always been at their most fantastic in realising that, to produce the genuinely innovative, you must also have a desire to share your ideas and innovations with others, over and above a drug-addled desire to escape into them.
This kind of navel-gazing will not do.