The Electronic Double Standard

Written for Collapse Board

A Quietus piece on Bruce Springsteen that suggested that there’s an “assumption that electronic music is automatically more modern and progressive” got me thinking.

I’ve always had a dismissive view of certain bands. Any act that is described as “the new Strokes” gets an automatic snort of derision from me: I didn’t like the old Strokes. I hated the White Stripes. I thought Beady Eye were bloody rubbish, and don’t even get me started on Oasis. If asked, I’d come up with a glib remark about how it’s like xeroxing from a photocopy: the quality degrades with each iteration. After all, why listen to something that sounds like the Stones when you can just listen to the Stones.

Yet I don’t have this attitude towards the slew of electro acts that seem to be absolutely everywhere at the moment. They dominated SXSW – when Bruce Springsteen wasn’t playing – and they mostly sound like this: 

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I think this is absolutely beautiful. It’s not doing anything that Danielle Dax or Bjork hasn’t done before, but it makes me feel like a cat having its ears scratched. Or take this one

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or this.

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Cynical thoughts don’t pop into my head – I’m too busy reaching for my credit card and impatiently waiting for iTunes to load.

I was hopping up and down with excitement when I heard this one

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which was compared by The Guardian to Yazoo as fronted by the offspring of Alison Moyet and Andrew Eldritch. This is actually a good thing.

So why am I more ready to accept derivative electropop than derivative indie rock? It’s not simply a question of hating indie – that’s not the case at all. It’s saturation. How many bands in history have ripped off the Beatles? Fucking tons, and only Cardiacs have really done it well. How many bands in history have ripped off Yazoo? I’m thinking it’s just the one. Because I haven’t heard it done a thousand times, it doesn’t have that tired, bored quality that retro guitar-based music suffers from. It still sounds fresh and new and exciting.

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OK, we might be perilously close to saturation point by now. I could do with something that little bit less obvious.

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Better, but now that annoying little voice is starting to whisper in my ear the words that tell me my little electro love affair is on the way out:

It just sounds like Bjork so you might as well just listen to Bjork.

Damn.

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