Lost Turntable news!
The long-awaited, incredibly-overdue, far-too-complex, incredibly-well-written Lost Turntable Guide To Recording Vinyl will be published here within one week’s time! Now, that doesn’t mean this week, that means a week from today (Wednesday). I mean it. It’s actually almost done. I’m just polishing up the rough edges and adding in screencaps/photos. It’s turned into a damn epic, well over 4,000 words, and I’m going to have to split it up into multiple parts (which will all be published simultaneously).
I really hope it doesn’t suck.
Anyways, time I got something off my chest.
I usually love The A.V. Club. I think it’s one of the best entertainment sites on the web, with a good balance of light “Top 10” type articles and more in-depth quirky pieces that really examine pop culture in a unique way.
One of my favorite recurring features on the site is “Gateways To Geekery.” In it, a writer looks at a fairly geeky piece of pop culture (Dr. Who, Pub Rock, Harvey Pekar) and breaks it down in a way that outsiders to the geekiness can understand, while giving examples of perfect points of entry for newcomers. It’s almost always just as educational as it is fun.
The latest Gateway To Geekery is on a topic that I consider myself a high-level geek on: 90’s ‘electronica.’ Like most people my age, I first got into dance and electronic music in the late 90s, cutting my teeth on stuff like Fatboy Slim and The Prodigy before discovering deeper acts like Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada and countless British drum and bass acts. A lot of the music from that time served as a major influence on my life, so I hold a great deal of nostalgia and fondness for it to this day. As such, I was very interested to read what the A.V. Club would recommend.
The article starts out decent enough, arguing that The Chemical Brothers are a good entry level band for those looking to explore the genre. But when the writer (more on that asshole in a bit) starts to talk about The Prodigy and Moby, things get a bit dicey.
First there’s this choice bit about Prodigy mastermind Liam Howlett:
“Liam Howlett earned his chart success with impeccably constructed tracks that showed off his ear for melody and drew from teen years spent gorging on hip-hop and jungle. “
As a commenter at The A.V. Club points out, Liam Howlett was born in 1971. Jungle/drum and bass didn’t exist as a genre until around 1990-91. Teenage Liam Howlett was not listening to jungle, as it did not yet exist.
From there, the author goes on to cover Moby (while finding ways to backhandedly compliment him along the way) and Underworld (oddly leaving out Darren Emmerson’s name entirely) before going on to Orbital. Most of this stuff is fine, if incredibly vague. It’s at the very end where the article falls apart.
First the writer concludes the main section of the piece by listing off other artists to make note of:
Leftfield’s dubby progressive house, Fatboy Slim’s lampshade-on-head chart pop, Lo-Fidelity All-Stars’ pub-Dadaism, and the jazz-noir of future Steven Soderbergh and Darren Aronofsky collaborator David Holmes are all worth exploring beyond the odd single or two.
All right on (although I don’t think this person knows what Dada is). But let’s take a look at what he says to avoid:
Almost anything called “big beat.”
You mean stuff like Fatboy Slim? The king of big beat? And while The Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy were never strictly big beat artists, a lot of their early (great) stuff certainly has a lot of trappings of the subgenre. And by dismissing big beat entirely he’s also telling you to ignore Fluke, Lunatic Calm, Meat Beat Manifesto (partially) and the Dub Pistols. All acts whose discographies are well worth visiting.
The final bit of the “what to avoid” section really takes the cake though:
A lot of the acts that arrived in the wake of The Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy were the electronic equivalents of the dullard bro-rockers taking cues from Oasis at the time. Often lumbering, obvious, and oddly self-satisfied, acts like The Crystal Method, Bentley Rhythm Ace, Propellerheads, Death In Vegas, Groove Armada, and Apollo 440 now sound like relics.
This is stupid in two parts.
First of all, to dismiss an act simply because they came out in the wake of another, more innovative, act is ridiculous. Music scenes are built on the idea of artists drawing immediate influence from other artists. And yes, this does often lead to poor pathetic copycats (post-grunge, I’m looking at you), it doesn’t mean those other acts are without any merit.
But that’s not even the dumbest, most ignorant thing about that statement. The Crystal Method were taking cues from The Chemical Brothers? Let’s visit or discography timelines, shall we?
The Crystal Method’s first single was “Now Is The Time,” it was originally released in 1994. That’s a full year before The Chemical Brothers’ first single or album came out. (I know that they were making music as The Dust Brothers beforehand, but that didn’t really put them on the map).
So the idea that The Crystal Method were a Creed to The Chemical Brother’s Pearl Jam is nonsensical and chronologically impossible. Same for the Proppellerheads, their first single dropped in 1996, less than a year after The Chemical Brothers’. Groove Armada’s first singles were in 1997, far enough away for them to possibly cite The Chemical Brothers as an influence, but not far enough away for them to be second-generation copycats. Same for Death In Vegas and even Bentley Rhythm Ace.
(I can kind of give the writer Apollo 440 though.)
I get the point of this article, and why acts like Aphex Twin, Autechre, Squarepusher and Boards of Canada weren’t mentioned. It’s supposed to be an introduction to a genre, and nothing about a lot of the best electronic music of the late-90s is newbie-friendly. But to not mention The Orb, Goldie, Roni Size, Basement Jaxx or Faithless? That’s some of the best, most accesible electronic music of all-time! When you see those kinds of glaring omissions, along with the blatant factual errors that run rampant throughout the piece, it makes you wonder: what kind of electronic “expert” wrote this article? Who could be that clueless?
Then you see that the writer of the article was Scott Plagenhoef and it all makes a lot more sense.
Plagenhoef is the former editor of Pitchfork, the hispster online music mag. The place where music journalism and originality go to die, replaced with bullshit posturing and elitist second-guessing over what’s cool, what’s ironically cool, and what’s trying too hard to be ironically cool. How this asshat somehow got to be the goto electronic music expert for The A.V. Club just goes to show that you can bullshit your way into anywhere if you’re popular enough.
Lament the state of music journalism with me as you check out these great remixes, all culled from various 12″ singles.
Around The World (Motorbass Vice Mix)
Teachers (Extended Mix)
Some of the commenters on the AV Club article bemoan that Daft Punk wasn’t mentioned. I can see their point, but it’s really not a legit complaint. Daft Punk only released one album in the 90s, 1997’s Homework and when you go back to that record now, it really pales in comparison to Discovery, which came out in 2000. Sure, “Around The World” may still sound great, even in remixed form, but a track like “Teachers”? It doesn’t hold up nearly as well.
Mercury And Solace (Dub Mix)
Mecury And Solace (Quivvers Transatlantic Remix)
Another almost-but-not-quite act that one could consider for an “intro to electronica” playlist, BT’s body of work is just too damn diverse to serve as a friendly/easy introduction for anyone looking to get into electronic music today. At least nearly everything the dude has put out has been good to great. If you do know someone who you are trying to get into electronic music, you could do worse than this track, but I would also recommend “Blue Skies,” his rad collaboration with Tori Amos.
Lush (1926 Trancedance Mix)Orbital have a new album out don’t they? Any word? I want to check it out, but I knew they kind of ran out of steam when they called it quits before. This mix is early-90s Orbital. Prime stuff.
Go (Low Spirit Mix)
Go (Voodoo Child Mix)
So many people continue to hate on Moby and I just don’t get it. So he sold off all his music to commercials? So what? It’s not like he’s Rage Against The Machine or Anti-Flag, with some crazy punk rock anti-corporate stance. A Moby’s gotta eat! Let the dude make his cash. I’ve met Moby twice, he’s the nicest dude on the planet. Give it a rest already. These two mixes of “Go” are from a 1991 12″ single. Put them on your workout mix, it’ll work wonders.
The Crystal Method
Busy Child (Taylor’s Hope for Evolution Mix)
The Dubeliscious Groove (Fly Spanish Version)
Now Is The Time (Secret Knowledge Overkill Mix)
Now Is The Time (Cloud 9 Mix)
Now Is The Time (The Olympic Mix) (Record Live In Atlanta)
$20 (or a cookie) to the person who can tell me how to pronounce “Dubeliscious.”