Sunday, August 03, 2008

Cashing in on Nu-Rave?

Lollapalooza Report: Friday - Matthew Solarski @ Pitchfork

I don't have much of a beef with Solarki's write-up of some of the performances until he gets to Bloc Party's set where he makes an ass of himself. Fortunately it's about music and not some trivial thing but his quick claim that Bloc Party's new song "Mercury" is a "meager attempt to cash in on last year's Klaxons-led new rave thing."I'm not sure what Solarski meant by this statement. You could take is a couple of ways--that the synth-laden "Mercury" is all together too club friendly for a band like Bloc Party or that the song lends itself to endless remixing as their "Flux" single did. Either way I don't see the song as a cash in attempt on a sub-genre that doesn't really exist.
Mostly because there are already several ways to classify the sound of the Klaxons, new rave (or nu rave if you want to be hip about it) existed before the Klaxons: it's called 'dance punk' or 'disco punk'. The mixture of live instruments with electronic beats and multiple synth lines has been a growing style of music since the turn of the century. Hell, you could even look back at Radiohead's Ok Computer or the Cardigan's Gran Turismo as predecessors of the sound. New rave is nothing more than another term for dance punk and while the Klaxons are very good at what they do, they didn't invent the genre nor have they placed a distinctive mark on it. I actually think of the Klaxons as one part Brit-pop and one part dance punk as their music (aside from their two hit songs "Atlantis to Interzone" and "Gravity's Rainbow") generally has an organic structure to it that joins keyboards with guitar riffs, complex drum timing and a bass pushed to the forefront.
I do think Bloc Party and the Klaxons share multiple elements in style and song structure but the bands produce distinctly different sounds based around dissimilar lyrics. Bloc Party started out driven by Matt Tong's drumming, early 80's punk riffs and 90's style call-and-response lyrics. Certainly they have expanded on their sound with their last album, the "Flux" single and the teaser song "Mercury" for their next album. The Klaxons, on the other hand, made the use of piano and backing synths part of their sound from the start. Moreover, their album Myth of the Near Future is primarily made of mournful sounding songs with dance-punk music propeling strange lyrics and vocals tinged with sadness. They even re-recorded previously released songs to fit with the overall sound of the album.
Both bands fit within the garage-punk/dance-punk aesthetic but I don't think of the Klaxons as something radically new. Even if they were, I don't think Bloc Party is trying to copy their style. Rather it seems Bloc Party is evolving their sound as any good band should. They haven't strayed too far from their original sound but merely incorporated elements found in contemporary music that allows them to toy around some more.