Allow me to mark a personal milestone for a sec? (Oh, you will? Thanks!) The summer of 2012 marks my 10th full year of residence in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I remember dopily thinking in 2002 that the neighborhood was pretty well filled in, a cake whose finished baking I could perpetually enjoy. LOL. So, as the best places struggled to stay afloat, sunk, and everything except the pizza place turned over three or four times, the realization that change is the constant here was a slow-moving one. Now, looking back on beloved “institutions” lost, on bars and restaurants with poor business timing, no place seems as unreal to me as Club Luxx, a candy-colored, neon bar on Grand St. (that subsequently turned into The Trash Bar punk club) that was my friends’ first weekend hotspot. Honestly, it seemed pretty unreal then too. But electroclash, the still joked about dance music genre that made its Brooklyn HQ there via Larry Tee’s “Berliniamsburg” parties, actually holds up way better than you might have been lead to believe.
Now, arguably, electroclash was already on the wane that summer of 02. I was briefly in London in 2001, but long enough to stop into the Trash party that was electroclash’s real spiritual birthplace and its eye of the storm. (It was dark and overwhelming! They played The Stooges! An unseen person grabbed my ass!) By summer 02, electroclash had just received its dreaded New York Times trend piece (a great read in retrospect as always, they still had to call it “the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn” then. How wishful its speculation that a 00s focus on 80s culture was just a fad! And it’s last paragraph could have been written a week ago, about Tumblr). There is some archived back up for 2002 as the heighth of the scene, though. And even some in-the-minute grumbling from an ancient-looking Free Williamsburg page here. Remember, the harsh instant-backlash machine of the music crit blogosphere hadn’t quite found its legs yet. Death by a thousand Twitter-joke pin-pricks was not an existential threat. Microtrends lasted longer, took a couple weird turns before being universally declared a total joke. These artists were still producing solid stuff through a wave of second records in 2003. And while DFA and dance-punk came in strong to replace it, their path to dominance had been partially pre-blazed by electroclash’s real punk and post-punk elements. The bar/house party playlist drift was fairly seamless.
There was also the added tangibility of trends being tied to real life physical places, as opposed to far-flung virtual ones. And while this is just a case of “different” rather than the misty-eyed, nostalgic “better,” you really could see a style of music’s constituency in a way that was impossible with subsequent blips like “witch-house” or “sea-punk” or whatever. Ha, can you imagine the snark levels in a trend piece reporting back from an actual, physical chillwave club? (OK, who’s the smartass in the back who just yelled out…”You mean Glasslands?”) It’s vaguely comparable to hitting Brooklyn’s new crop of metal venues in 2012 (though metal heads will HATE that comparison). As made up as electroclash might seem to people who missed it, it still seems way less made up than much of the stuff that followed.
Note: The Quietus‘ Luke Turner provided a comprehensive defense of the genre last fall, tied to the tenth anniversary of Fischerspooner’s “Emerge,” a date which is as good starting flare for electroclash as any. And while that piece is totally vital for its “this is what that was” nuts and bolts, I feel like you can squint your way into a version of the music that’s aged even better. (“Emerge,” for instance, has aged pretty poorly. When it pops up on shuffle now, it’s a bit like a performance artist throwing glitter on you as you’re trying to ride the subway home.)
So, a long windup to say, here are ten Electroclash tracks that have survived 10 years of tragic iPod and laptop death, and still sound great in the summer of 2012.