Treasure Island Music Festival: "Help! I'm drowning in shutter shades," yells club kid
>>Justice among us? Read rocker Kimberly Chun's response to this essay here.
SUPER EGO Pack up your travel-size Palin Porker-Pink™ CoverGirl Lipslick, kids, 'cuz we're about to time-travel through the recent dance floor past, with a brief stop at Negative Nellyland. All aboard the Wayback: toot, toot.
In the past couple of years, five new genres have taken over US underground clubs — all with wriggly roots in Europe and Canada. (If you're looking to read any entrails about America's loss of influence in the world, check out our lube-slip grip on global dance floors.) These genres are the following: minimal techno, a brainy but often stunning strip-down of the much-maligned techno beast; dubstep, with its post-postcolonial fusion of reggae, two-step, bhangra, and more; retro disco, summoning the shimmering ghosts of gay bathhouse, italo disco, and other pre-digital '70s and '80s micro-movements; lazer bass — or "bastard bass," or "psychedelic robo-crunk remix action" — the blippy, bowel-shaking deconstruction of chart-prevalent hip-hop.
And then, of course, there's hardcore electro.
Honestly, hardcore electro — and the glam-slam banger scene that grew up around it — can sometimes bug the bejesus out of me. The genre has mind-blowing aspects: thumping energy, quick-witted mixing, exhilarating stuttered vocals, old-school breakdowns, and key-skipping basslines. I was raised rave, so its primo combo of mannered anarchy and DJ worship — along with its genre-bending conflagration of metal, crunk, acid, and techno — is right up my tender alley. Bring the noise.
Yet there's something a little too "party like a rockstar" about it. With its accompanying over-the-top neon-hipster look (attack of the sunglass tees!), sex-obsessed provocations, and fist-pumping non-dance moves, hardcore electro is the new hair metal. The banger kids I've met are all lovely and motivated, and in the right DJ hands — Richie Panic, Vin Sol — the mix can achieve perfection, cheekily blasting stadium-size sounds to an up-to-the-minute crowd. But there's sometimes a shallow, for-the-cameras sheen to the scene — mirroring the often robotic, often black-faced "let's get fucked up and fuck" lyrics spat from the speakers. Sad face.
Plus, no one ever STFUs about goddamned Justice.
OK, look, I'm no hater — do you see any frown lines on this immaculate face? Thought not. If 10,000 people wanna throw on electric-blue shutter shades and American Apparel tube socks and lose their shit to two smirking French dudes, I'm all for it. I may even join 'em. But if I get one more MySpace friend request from a DJ tag team in Spiderman masks who fall on their knees before Justice, I'm gonna hurl coconuts. Can we get a little originality on the runway, s'il vous plaît?
Justice — superstars of the Ed Banger label, for which the banger scene's named — are OK. Any politically savvy decks duo that flawlessly drops "Master of Puppets" and "Standing in the Way of Control" into ear-splitting, ADD sets gets my vote. They're wicked smart, too: the hilariously grandiose symbol-title of their first album, † is the ascii symbol for dagger — an Internet-based irony perfect for our religiously warring times, and one surely expected from the two sharp former graphic designers. They don't wear masks, whew, and I can't totally blame them for the look and feel of their scene.
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