Everywhere I go, I hear the same conversation between music nerds (of which i consider myself one, though i think i'm a really mild strain). It goes something like this:
SCENE: local record store. Nerd A sees Nerd B flipping through the latest issue of The Fader, and approaches:
Music Nerd A: Hey, good to see --
Music Nerd B: ELECTROCLASH ELECTROCLASH ELECTROCLASH ELEC-
Music Nerd A: Whoa, wait a second here. Hold up. Are you -
Music Nerd B: Chicks on Speed!
Music Nerd A: but...
Music Nerd B: A.R.E. Weapons!!!
Music Nerd A: OK, I know but have you -
Music Nerd B: Peaches! W.I.T.! Detroit Grand Pubas! Fischer-goddamn-Spooner!! The Faint!! Holy fucking shit Tracy + the Plastics!!
Music Nerd A: Right. however -
Music Nerd B: Pac-Man! Berserk! Evil Otto! Bleep Bloop! Logan's Run!
Music Nerd A: YOU ARE A TOTAL FUCKING BIONIC TOOL!!!! AND JUST LAST YEAR YOU WERE SAYING THE MISSISSIPPI DELTA WAS THE NEXT BIG THING!!! FUCK! I JUST WANT TO KNOW IF THE FUCKING BLACK HEART PROCESSION RECORD IS GOOD!!!!
Music Nerd B: The black who?..
I think "electroclash" is shorthand for "hi, can I have a record deal, please?" The one aspect of punk and new wave I was never crazy about was the totally shallow obsession with fashion. People like Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood hand-picking clothing to make perfect little punks. I still think it's OK for the fans of the music to be sort of enamored with punk fashions, but that kind of surface attention from the musicians - especially the ones who were supposedly giving the fig to everything society finds admirable and tasteful - breeds a certain sub-set of musicians who lack talent but can afford style (cough! siouxsie sioux). Electroclash has that air to it, a thousand times over. "Check it out," so many bands seem to say. "I'm going to pose behind this vintage laptop and you are going to take my picture. Please make absolutely certain the Udo Kier button on my blazer lapel is in full view."
I confesss that, in certain cases, I really like the electroclash noise, but with this particular style of music comes this ugly instance of spoiled, upper-middle-class behavior. Kids who scour music thrift stores and eBay and anywhere else to buy every last bit of "proper" electronics. One of the most exciting aspects of music to me - really live, burst your testicles or creep under your skin and haunt your gooseflesh music - is its cheapness. Inexpensive Montgomery Ward guitars. Taped together shit. The smelliest t-shirt ever. Electroclash is the polar opposite of that in many ways. It comes from a source of privilege - the kind of privilege that can make you the most nattily dressed artist out there, and the kind that can pose you behind a pile of enviably vintage equipment. I guess, with every breed of music, the genuine innovators are inevitably going to be diluted by the kids with trust funds and good record collections. And I promise I'll still listen to the music - well, some of it - if you promise to never say "electroclash" again. Just call it by its proper name: NEW WAVE AT IMPROPER VOLUME. Fuck it. I guess electroclash is catchier, if a bit less honest.
p.s. Great electroclash start-up primer here.
p.p.s. Seriously...how is the Black Heart Procession album? Tell me.