Friday, 20 June 2014

Dance, dance, dance

Last night I was dancing around the living room, noticing the sunset sky outside the window. It was so easy to imagine I was somewhere else, that I could smell the crushed grass, the sun-cream and the weed, that I was exchanging coy looks with the smiley barman in a drinks tent, that I was in a place I've never been but want to. I was high on just the music... dance music. This was surely not meant to happen!

I mean – it used to be so simple; you could tell straight away what someone was like by their musical taste and, for me back then, dance music came with a stigma. My early '80s experiences of working in a small town record shop gave me this education, exposing me to many different genres and consequently to their typical fans. I could so easily have written a 'Bluffer's Guide' to musical stereotypes based just on our customers. For example: heavy metal enthusiasts were nerdy and more intelligent than they wanted you to think, indie kids were sweet and shy, goths were introvert, Gary Numan fans all looked like Gary Numan and crusties were... unwashed. But it was the dance fans you really had to watch. Anyone who looked at the dance charts for their inspiration, who bought the Street Sounds Electro albums and who preferred Chaka Khan to the Cocteau Twins, was quite likely to be rude, aggressive, glue-sniffing or moronic, or all of these things. It was the dance fans who brought back their recently scratched albums and tried to pass them off as faulty. They were the ones who changed their screaming babies' nappies on the counter and stubbed their fags out on the shop's carpet. I grew to hate dance in its broadest sense just on principle. It was almost impossible to disassociate it from the arseholes who made our lives a misery with their demands for refunds on the Break Machine albums they'd spilt their cans of Tennent's over.

It's only in the relatively recent past that I've managed to shake off this irrational prejudice. Now, with the interim years bringing closure to my record shop dance fan paranoia, I can hear the music differently.  Saint Etienne and Apollo 440 first made it more palatable, then others followed and now so much also sounds better retrospectively.  What would I rather listen to at this moment – Theme from S'Express, or Song To The Siren? It's a closer call than it's ever been.  EDM is getting under my skin and, more to the point, under my feet. Dubstep, uplifting trance, progressive house... oh god, my '80s self would have shuddered. Possibly the creators of some of the albums now gracing our CD racks are shuddering too at the thought that their music is appealing to 50-somethings. Does that mean they've failed? Or is it all different now anyway because it really was our musical roots which inspired them in the first place?

I don't know. But here's a track from the forthcoming Nero album. Now tell me this isn't good!


16 comments:

  1. You just have to give in to things sometimes. Nothing wrong with dance music (in its broadest sense). Theme from S'Express is one of the wonders of late 20th century popular culture.

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  2. As you know, I'm a fan of many forms of dance music myself but have always placed theory before practice. There is a deep part of me which wishes it was otherwise but it's not. So, I say embrace the dance. I know what you mean about the sort of people that take dance music very seriously, though. Funny how we like to stereotype but behind every stereotype is an element of truth. Thankfully, all those boundaries are breaking down and i've never held them in much regard myself. Why not The Slits, AC/DC and George McCrae?

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    1. Yes, it's good to embrace. You can't kid yourself about what you like (at least, not for long!)

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  3. I spent so much of my 'youf' in dance tents, raves, discos (yes, flipping glitter ball infested, coloured light-boxed dance floored DISCOs) that I guess my eardrums were too blasted to care about all those tribal distinctions. I have always had a gut reaction to music and gone with it. I can't dance but it never stopped me... I put it down to being Welsh! We are always the butt of the joke in Gb so who cares if you are a dance crazed indie-goth Rocker, just get into the music ;o)

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    1. Ha, I envy you those raves especially!
      'Just get into the music' is exactly how I feel now. Thirty years ago it seemed to feel more complicated!

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  4. All of that genre cross-pollination in the 90s was a very healthy thing I think. People like Chemical Brothers and UNKLE featuring unlikely guests on their tunes, opened the ears of a lot of danceheads to the wider world of music that was available to discover. I remember selling Thunder and Leftfield LPs to the same customers and I also had a regular who was so into breakbeat that he carried a rolled up piece of lino under his arms at all times, in case he felt the urge to spin on his head, yet he was also a huge fan of Wedding Present and Pearl Jam! This was only a little over 15 years after I was in an audience that was kept in the venue after a Stranglers show, because there was a large gang of so-called 'soul-boys' waiting outside to beat up all the 'punks' on the way out, for being different.
    In 2007/8 I had a big minimal/prog/tech/house phase and quickly filled up hard-drives and mp3 players with the stuff. Try standing still with this little beauty banging out. It's good music for driving to as well.
    (I have to admit that had to stop reading your post and have a quick shudder when I saw the words Break and Machine in a sentence together!)

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    1. Sorry about that shudder-inducing sentence...!
      Great link you sent, thanks. It was in the early to mid 2000s that it all started to fall into place for me too. Before that there was all that great house music in the '90s some of which I liked deep down (how about Snap!) but would never in a million years have considered owning. Thankfully as you say all the boundaries have merged and the effect of being older just adds to the ease of enjoyment!

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  5. There were Punks and there were goth-ish kids...mostly there were people who obviously bought their cloths at thrift stores...which was a lot easier to recognize in the 80's. Especially in The South it's hard to tell who's who and what from their clothes and appearance. It was a pee-wee football coach (jock college kid) that put me on to REM when I was 11.

    In fact, if you can think back to what R.E.M looked like in 1984...that's what the kids, I pestered at the record shop, looked and dressed like.

    I have always been fairly shameless in my tastes (seeing a sharp division between taste and judgment...I've never really fought my tastes)...50 Cent was just followed by Chrome on my phone. Flux of Pink Indians is nestled in between Lynrd Skynard and Prince. It's like old FM radio around here.

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    1. It's good to be shameless in your tastes... who can argue with that?!

      Thinking about my '80s prejudices being based mainly on a certain demographic of shop customer, it may just be that it was the wrong town. Perhaps in another part of the country or world even it would not have seemed so cut and dried? It just seemed that 'dance' music was factory fodder, appealing to a particular type of person who lacked finesse and curiosity, who just wanted a mindless beat, and who thought anything remotely left field was freakish... (Having said that, one of my fellow assistants was into dance music and she was a friend - so it was just a generalisation!)

      PS I've passed on a certain mention to the relevant party - thanks!

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  6. I can only concur ! formative years spent listening to loud guitar bands at some point transmuted into spending all night dancing at Northern Soul and Acid Jazz (don't laugh...terrible name for a genre but some damn fine music) nights and from there its only a short drop into Leftfield and a desire to jump all night in a field rather than a club. Saw James Holden the other night as part of Meltdown - an hour and a half of arty tecno-ish beats and bleeps (and I was right next to a speaker) but seated.....still came out having loved it though.

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    1. Great to hear you enjoyed James Holden.

      Yes, you just have move with it... both metaphorically and literally! I know of one or two people who will still only listen to punk and I find it hard to get my head around - not knowing whether it's entirely genuine or whether they have somehow chosen to box themselves in because they feel they have to maintain that loyalty. It seems so self-limiting... Glad to have loosened those bonds long ago.

      And next time you're jumping about in a field, say hi to the smiley barman for me!

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  7. True Faith and I am up on that floor doing my 'thang

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  8. Careful, next you'll progress (back in time) to Underground Resistance...ha-ha! I grew up dancing in discos (then clubs) and it was only Greasers and nerds who didn't 'get' the music. 4/4 became moron fodder, though, with the rise of 'superclubbing'.

    Yours, an old man from Camden who doesn't stay up past 10.30 any more.

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    1. I missed out! I must be making up for lost time (or times)...

      Can't do much beyond 11pm myself, though!

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