While everyone else in the world infatuated themselves with The Strokes and their retro rock revivalism, I threw my lot in with Electroclash, which immediately appealed to me on the most basic of levels. The aesthetic was both shiny and tacky, reveling in it’s meretricious presentation. Electroclash was a brilliant mixture of super serious and deeply silly. At that point in my life, the tortoise years of between graduating from college and looking for a career (and trying to avoid getting one), these tinny sounds, arch vocals, and misanthropist lyrics gave me an alternative life full of glamour and apathetic fabulosity. In the middle of 2002 and 2005, I belonged to Berlin, though a lack of funds meant I had to make do with Cumbernauld, a town full of weird corners and odd angles. The lack of passport and a deeply held terror of flying meant music was my main mode of transport, taking me to a Berlin that existed only in my dreams. I wanted glamour on a Jobseeker’s Allowance budget, if only because my life was anything but ideal. After years of being in further education, studying PR and Journalism, I still wasn’t sure of my place in the world. My brother was in prison after another bungled robbery. My parents were splitting up (again). Doctor Who still wasn’t on the telly. Also, other things were happening that I didn’t truly deal with until a few years ago, after the death of my sister. In the midst of that… Electroclash! New sounds from an old era, back again for a different audience to discover.
My introduction to the sound of Electroclash was Miss Kittin & The Hacker’s seminal First Album. Magazines I eagerly seized from the shelves of Borders (back when the print industry felt substantial enough to fill those shelves) seemed unsure of their genre, so embraced everything. Sleazenation. Jockey Slut. The Face. ID. Dazed. They mixed fashion, music, literature, and photography the way a DJ fuses songs into a playlist. It felt like the promise of innovation was just around the corner and a deadpan delivery with tinny beats could be the soundtrack to a promised, stylish future. Even artists not quite in the Electroclash zone fell into my CD pile. Peaches, an Electroclash adjacent artist, put out The Teaches of Peaches, which was *the* hippest album for a good while until the next hippest album came along, was discovered at Fopp in Glesga. The cover artwork immediately hinted at something transgressive, the pink hotpants a particular giveaway. As soon as I saw the track list (AA XXX, Fuck The Pain Away, Set It Off…), I knew this was an album I *had* to buy. Ladytron also popped up early in my CD shopping sprees. Evil, the Ewan Pearson remix, was dutifully grabbed at the Cumbernauld branch of Our Price, which shut down during the initial wave of industry confusion in the wake of Napster. The unit where Our Price used to be is now a nail bar, the wet mildew stink of spreading damp always a reminder of the CD shop I used for years. A few years after I bought that album, I met Ladytron in Glesga, having them autograph their albums for me. They scribbled their names in gold. How perfect, I thought.
Fischerspooner were never the most respected groups in music, but their Top of the Pops appearance was pure performance art, serving bratty New York overconfidence years before Gaga arrived on the scene with her own take. Richard Blackwood looked terrified when he made their introduction. I’d lie if I said their debut album was on rotation, because outside of Emerge, I found it a little unsteady. Mostly, I listened to Emerge, like most fans at the time. It peaked at #25 in the chart and disappeared, which I found bizarre because what a fucking song. Also, this performance literally didn’t sell the song to the public. Maybe if the dancers had worn Converse instead of gravity defying wigs…
One of my favourite memories of that time was my visit to London so I could attend Panopticon at The Hilton. A Doctor Who convention was taking place, celebrating Forty Years of our favourite Time Lord. There I was in my old man peaked cap and tartan cardigan, watching my friend cadge ciggies from Katy Manning, when I realised there had to be an HMV nearby. Later that day, I found the new Chicks on Speed album which featured appearances by Peaches and Miss Kittin. 99 Cents must be the single most ‘Electroclash’ sounding album I own and while not substantial musically, it’s bloody good fun and sometimes that’s all you really need when you press PLAY. Goldfrapp’s Black Cherry, Ultrasex by Mount Sims, Electrocute’s A Tribute To Your Taste, Lesbians On Ecstacy, Ping Ping Bitches, Le Tigre, Whatever It Takes, TokTok Vs Soffy O, Muzik Magazine’s Dance To The Underground compilation, Playgroup’s debut album, the Party Monster soundtrack, and Felix Da Housecat’s Kittenz and Thee Glitz were all essential musical monuments of a time I always forget until the iPod decides to remind me I survived the noughties, even if it sometimes doesn’t feel like it. It was a rough time that required escapism for me to function. Music gives you another place to visit, something to cut the noise out, if only for the duration of an album. That’s why I could never dismiss Electroclash’s importance as a genre. Honestly, I never understood that criticism. Just because something is disposable doesn’t mean it can’t matter, especially to the people who need it the most, like me a long time ago.