Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Self-Annihilating Nothing

Klaxons: Myths of the Near Future

Nu-Rave pioneers. The creators of a ‘Whole New’ sound and sub-genre. Strobe lights. Siren horns. Glow sticks. Youngsters with big silly hair who paint their faces and worship at the alter of the Mighty Boosch.

That’s all before you get down to anything as mundane as actually listening to the album. What you find is a cartoon version of the band you think Klaxons ought to be. Sitting comfortably on a shelf somewhere between Ballard, Mika and the Automatic. Or should that be Burroughs, the Scissors Sisters and Franz Ferdinand. Or maybe Pynchon, the Feeling and the Frattelis.

They dare to invoke the names of these legendary authors then make opaque music that has nothing to do with Interzone and everything to do with Ibiza. This is real world from now to infinity. The suspension of disbelief required is too great. I can’t help but see a bunch of middle class English boys making a self-conscious attempt at being ‘alternative’. Maybe that’s part of the joke, I’m just not getting it.

They’ve got the right uniform: it’s all very hip, very now, very ’07, the hair, the colours, the trousers. And they’ve read all the right books. But I hear none of the imagination. You’ve got to say something, or at least convey something and all I hear is a fashionable nothing (which might actually be a pertinent comment on the direction pop music, pop culture, pop in general is headed in, or perhaps always was at. Maybe it’s what you get when you elevate pop to the status of something worth writing, talking, discussing, debating about. Maybe if we ignore it and deride it, put it down, spit on every attempt it makes at relevance, pop (if we’re still aloud to call it that) will rebel with ideas, imagination, wit, colour and invention, the kind I remember, imagine or pretend it once had or has or can/might/could have. But that’s not my job, it’s something the older generation should be doing. Reeling back in horror at the sheer awfulness of it all and boring us with how it’s not like back in their day. I don’t want to sit and earnestly agree with self-satisfied olders. Maybe they’re the ones not doing their job. Helping us by not helping us. But I’m not sure I agree with that either. Maybe I’m too old for all of this. Maybe, the point I think I’m trying to make is that if Klaxons are what’s considered ‘alternative’ these days we really are in trouble, culturally speaking. They’re not nearly angry enough for a start. I see them sitting quite happily next to Franz, Kaisers and Killers. Maybe I'm projecting my own hang-ups onto a band that has nothing to do with any of this. Maybe I hate everything much more than I thought. Maybe it’s that I want to like this because almost everything about it (except the music) tells me that I should. But it still sounds like a beer wearing, football shirt eating, kebab swilling night out on the lash.

Like almost all of the homogenous, interchangeable bands that have been forced upon us in recent years Klaxons sound finished, airtight, seemingly fully-formed and boring as a result. You know the ones. They arrive with their own hermetically sealed ‘sound,’ already mastered, with nowhere to go from there. Where is the journey? A new artist is not the same as a 'New Artist'. It’s all so uniform, just one song from each of them would be enough. I Predict A Riot, Do You Want To, Chelsea Dagger, I Bet You Look Good (On The Dance Floor), Golden Skans, put a fork in it you’re done. Part of a producer’s package, heavily marketable, easily defined, labeled, and placed on a shelf alongside all the other commodity rockers. Maybe I’m too cynical (yes!) but when I listen to Klaxons, I have a lot of time for what I think they are trying to do, but I can’t help but think, “I don’t believe you.”)

Maybe I’m being a bit harsh with all these comparisons. They are in fact the missing link between the Spice Girls and Secret Machines (and anyone familiar with his writing will know I am most definately not the missing link between Paul Morley and Paul Morley, which in itself is very Paul Morley.)

Bottom line: It’s only a first album (though it sounds a lot like a first and last album) and even Radiohead started with Pablo Honey. Of course, all of this so-called criticism (that’s what I’m calling it at least) is a perverse kind of love letter to a band actually worth having an opinion about. While they don’t have the same wit as fellow nu-ravers Hot Chip, at least they’re trying something, which makes them worth several hundred Kooks.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Maybe Our World is Their Heaven

The Apocalypse is coming! Really? No, it’s not. But beyond that you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise. The way people run on you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s ALL TRUE. The Polar ice caps have melted, the waves are lapping at your doorstep, troops goose step down your street making daily patrols of ‘The Infected Area’, a preacher with a megaphone reads us all our last rights before being blown apart by the neighbourhood suicide bomber (Jim). You brush the human entrails off your shoulder on your way to the shops to pick up the latest hysteria rag from our responsible, respected media betters. On the front of The Sun today: ‘Price William grabs girl’s boob.’ Some of the less informed amongst you might not see how that headline could be heralding the immanent arrival of the Four Horsemen. But believe you me… they’re closer than they’ve ever been before.

Whimsy aside, (huh?) you know the kind of thing I’m talking about. Of course this isn’t exactly a new phenomenon. I’ve been known to enjoy a good dystopia future fantasy as much as the next man, but when it starts leaking out of the pages of J.G Ballard and Ridley Scott’s celluloid can’t contain it, I think it’s time to step back and take another look at what you really see with your own eyes. Talk of the apocalypse is not nearly the fun it used to be, somewhere along the line we let it get serious. Maybe involvement in an unwinable war and a fundamentalist Christian regime in the White House will do that to a nation. But it’s not like we haven’t been here before. Maybe I’m just getting older and becoming more aware of it.

If you tell a lie often enough people will believe it, and I think its high time people stopped believing what they’re told.

Monday, March 26, 2007


I hope everybody took time out of busy schedules to watch The Trap - What Happened to our Dream of Freedom. It was the most engaging, entertaining, surreal, real, hyperreal, Lynchian, absurdist, dadaist evocation of the televisual format I have witnessed in many a mile. Documentarian Adam Curtis takes the idea of freedom in the 20th century, as concieved of by Cold War era academics, thinkers, philosophers, economists and sociolagists as his starting point. The rest unfolds randomly naturally from there. A voiceoever telling you 'the way it is, and was a will be' is at the centre, while images from stock footage and news footage and silent cinema and modern blockbusters combine, collide and converge with music from Sibelius, Joy Division and Bernard Hermann. The result is highly informative, deeply serious, insanely comical, totally throwaway, inifinately re-watchable and absolutely essential viewing.

Unfortunately, the final episode, screened last night, was neither the satisfying conclusion I had wanted. It seems as if Mr. Curtis felt compelled, or market forces (that, as he tells us are just one of the things running our lives) forced him to crowbar in a 'message' - a truely pat, bland, simplification I don't even care to remember. That patronising, lecturous tone employed by so many documentary filmmakers is exactly what his extended docu-dream had undermined and satirised so well for 2 and a half hours of its three hour running time. A confused and muddled conclusion opposed to a contradictory and enigmatic one.