Music News

Electro Ass

The last couple weeks have been sheer torture on the ears.

See, this coming weekend I'm turning 30, and in an effort to ensure that I'm not losing touch with what the kids are rocking, I've been immersing myself in what may be the most obnoxious genre of music ever: electroclash, the unholy spawn of '80s New Wave revivalism and Brooklyn attitude.

Though the electroclash phenomenon hit New York several years ago, it swiftly became pass, while here in the 'Nix it's become an ill-defined buzz word over the past year and the basis for several popular weekly dance nights -- even New Times' own Stephen Lemons has rambled on about Hot Pink at Boom.

So while pondering the relevance of my musical tastes after three decades of breathing, I decided I should envelop myself in this oh-so-hip genre.

It's not like I'm an electro-virgin; I was there the first time around. I saw Depeche Mode's World Violation Tour when I was 16, almost half a lifetime ago, and dutifully collected New Order 12-inches and their ilk -- so, I figured, how painful could it be, acquainting myself with the nu-wave?

Terribly painful, to be quite honest.

Electroclash is defined not only by its synthetic elements, but by the intentionally cold and stiff mechanical attributes of the music -- where house music and trance were warm and inclusive, electroclash sounds intentionally artificial, often with robotic vocals and stiff grooves. It's touted as a post-punk phenomenon, dance music for the rock kids (hence the angry and anti-authoritarian addition of "clash" to what was simply "electro"), but what electroclash has done is strip the soul from dance music, effectively removing any black elements from the mix, erasing any influence of R&B or jazziness.

Add to that the fact that electroclash depends as much on fashion (bad fashion) and attitude as it does on music, and basically what you get is Eurotrash, redux. Skinny ties, colored hair, cocaine crust around the nostrils -- you know the type.

Even electroclash's origins are suspicious. The term itself is trademarked by Larry Tee (notice the "TMs" on his Web site,, the DJ impresario behind electroclash's epicenter, the Berliniamsburg club in Brooklyn, founder of the Mogul Electro record label, and the organizer of the Electroclash Festival in late 2001 that gave the movement a name.

The 2001 Electroclash Festival featured many of the so-called artists who are now stalwarts of the genre (although, much like emo, it's terribly unfashionable to refer to yourself as electroclash, or even acknowledge the term) -- Fischerspooner, A.R.E. Weapons, Adult, Chicks on Speed, Peaches . . .

As evidenced by Fischerspooner and Peaches, electroclash is often dependent on gimmickry and theatrics to compensate for lack of musicality. Fischerspooner is much more a performance art act than it is a group of musicians, prone to costumes that would make a drag queen blush. And Peaches, with her Fatherfucker shtick and machine gun vulgarities, is simply insufferable.

Chicks on Speed are even worse, though their Eurotrash affectations are at least somewhat genuine, based out of Munich but containing a former New Yorker, Melissa Logan. Besides making absolutely crap music, the trio designs video and print graphics and art installations, as well as selling paper and leather clothing. Not that I fault them for that -- anyone involved in electroclash should have a career to fall back on.

Here in the 'Nix, electrospinners shouldn't quit their day jobs, either -- that's a conclusion I reached after visiting DJ Pablo Gomez's Wednesday Electrolush night at Fat Cat's. Teetering on the brink of 30, I suppose my bedtime is far earlier than that of the electroclashers, but when I stopped in the club at 10:30 p.m. it was like an electroclash morgue. The ambiance was there -- black lights illuminating the faux cobwebs enveloping the DJ booth, a video projector playing films on the ceiling, reflecting in the disco ball -- but there was only one solitary fan, sitting alone immersed in the music, doing an odd little hand dance while perched on his stool.

Still, the shit seems to sell around here. DJ Alie Cat, now of Motor and formerly of Hot Pink, won the New Times Music Showcase Best Club DJ award, and the bizarre love triangle of electroclash wanna-bes XOXOXO took home the Best Eclectic award. But it seems to me, electroclash's Phoenix incarnation is already dying on the vine. The local club scene has become increasingly fractious, with at least three weekly nights vying for the same crowd.

I know what defenders of electroclash are saying to themselves right now -- some 30-year-old asshole is telling my 21-year-old ass what's cool? Sorry, kids, that's my job. And even at 30 I'll pit my music collection against yours any day. Throw away your skinny ties and hair gel, throw out your DJ Hell and Felix da Housecat CDs, and go buy a Dntel CD if you want something new to dance to.

Better yet, move your tired ass to Brooklyn where at least the shit's organic.

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Brendan Joel Kelley