I saw an interesting thing the other day. Somebody had taken a pen to a Paul Stanley tour poster and re-drawn his Kiss makeup. You know, I had to admit, it looked better – compared to the three untampered posters next to it, Paul looked somehow more himself. More relaxed. Less… artificial, if you can believe it. As if the person, by ‘colouring him in’, had put his clothes back on.
Seeing ‘nude’ Stanley got me thinking – the anonymous scribbler was obviously really bothered by the Kiss man’s raw lips, enough to take not just a black, but also a white pen down the street and carefully, lovingly return him to his ‘original’ state.
Image is a funny old thing that way. This whole ‘New Rave’ thing is a good example. It’s a stupid term, I’ll give you that. Of all the groups associated with the NME-flogged tag, only Trash Fashion make music that’s ravey in the slightest. And even if they’re not a Nathan Barley-esque pisstake, they still are, if you know what I mean. Don’t believe me? Log on and check out the ‘Rave Dog’ quicktime video on Channel 4’s website. Trash Fashion are keepin’ it foolish.
The Klaxons are another matter. The guys are ostensibly an indie pop band – they just wear clothing that loosely references the rave era, but in a much more coolsie way. Kinda like the grunge equivalent of ‘Kurt Urbane’.
But it’s not like the group have ever made any grand claims. Aside from doing an indie-coolsie cover version of a minor rave classic, the group are doing nothing more than playing with their visual image. It’s dress ups, nothing more, and it has nothing to do with their music. As their bass player explained: "There doesn't seem to be much fun in music at the moment… Rave is something that's bright, attractive to the eye."
So why does it give so many people the howling, screaming shits?
People talk about style over substance. But the case of the Klaxons might mark an interesting point in culture. Maybe what we’re seeing here is not just the total disassociation of style and substance, but their mutual irrelevance. If they were a couple, they wouldn’t have broken up, no. This is more radical. If style/substance were formerly boyfriend and girlfriend, what the Klaxons have done has effectively made it so they no longer even have corresponding genitals. It’s like frogs and trees trying to mate. The bits don’t just ‘not fit’, they don’t want to. Or they’d croak trying.
It’s a step up from what Matisyahu has done. Matisyahu is an Orthodox Jew and a ska singer, but he is genuinely both these things. But if his message makes it thinkable, or even normal, for anyone to be an orthodox Jew and a ska singer, the Klaxons are saying that you can be an indie band and dress ‘rave’ ¬without the two having to mean anything in common, or even having to mean anything at all. This goes with that at Sussan. Next question.
This is pioneering stuff. Give it ten years and we’re gonna start seeing all kinds of kooky chimeras – imagine: thugged out rappers dressed as Alice in Wonderland; country and Western singers dressed as African dictators; shred metal guitarists getting about as frump feminist lesbians.
It still makes people angry, seeing the divorce of sound from vision. But in ten years it will be common sense, and our generation will the ones who appear out of touch when we question our spawn as to why they’re dressed as Nazi punks when they’re off to the opera. Buckle your seatbelts, kids. We’re in for a bumpy ride. I think SLUTTT, writing about the New Rave backlash on someone’s blog, unwittingly summed it up perfectly:
“LABELS ARE SO STUPID. MY DUMB PARENTS AND TEACHERS ALWAYS TRIED TO LABEL ME AND I TOLD THEM “FUCK U !! U DONT EVEN KNOW ME!!!!” EVERYONE IS A SPECIAL UNIQUE PERSON IMO.
NOBODY HAS ONE PARTICULAR TASTE EVERYONE IS A SHINING INDIVIDUAL IMO.
I LIKE NEON COLORS AND XTC BUT I ALSO LIKE GOTH SHIT.
I GUESS I’M A NEU GRAVER!!!!!LOLOLZ
N.E.WAYS EVERY1 KNOWS MAGAZINES JUST MAKE THIS SHIT UP I JUST LIKE 2 PARTY NO STRINGS ATTACHED WHETEHER ITS RAVING OR MOSH PITS OR JUST DOIN DRUGS HAVING FUN. XOXOOXOXOXO SLUTTT”
This rant was originally published in Inpress, February '07
© Peter Chambers 2007
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