Listen to this track by Braintree, Essex crossover hit makers and controversy-stirring dance floor urchins The Prodigy. It’s “Firestarter”, their monster dance hit that scored top ten placements on the British pop charts, and serving as the first single from the band’s 1996 record Fat Of The Land.
That album was a breakthrough into the mainstream for the burgeoning dance scene that had existed in various forms in Essex for many years. By the mid-to-late nineties, it provided something of a stylistic ballast during the height of the Brit-pop period. The Prodigy reminded music fans that there was more on offer when it came to making impactful music than guys with guitars, and that there was more to dance music than sanitized beats and thin synth riffs.
The Prodigy were dogged with controversy over many aspects of their presentation and their content. With this song, maybe controversy was stirred up because of the video, and the meaning of what a “firestarter” really is, too. Read more
Listen to this track by Madchester scene-stealers and dance-indie-psych-rock purveyors Happy Mondays. It’s “Kinky Afro”, their top five UK hit single that would otherwise appear on their landmark 1990 album Pills ‘n’ Thrills And Bellyaches, their third LP. That release would consolidate the band on the scene as being one of the key acts coming out of Manchester by the end of the 1980s and into the 1990s. It would also provide an important template for many bands from similar geographic origins to follow during that decade, including The Charlatans and Oasis.
Along with The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays were among the acts that best helped to represent a few movements during that time period in Greater Manchester. First, their output would re-emphasize something that had been firmly established in the 1960s; that music scenes springing from the provinces in Britain were in many cases just as vital as those centered in London, which was still viewed as the seat of the industry. Second, the sound which the Mondays had developed since their formation in 1980 showed that rock bands still had musical regions to explore that remained largely untapped.
But, what else did Happy Mondays bring to that scene, and what do they deliver on this song? Well, I think it has to do with how rock music needed to develop by that time, and how much a sense of the dark side needed to be re-injected into the mix, too. Read more
Listen to this track by synth-pop movers and dark-dance auteurs Depeche Mode. It’s “Personal Jesus”, their return to the top 40 US charting single as taken from 1989’s Violator.
It would be a song that would secure their continued success in North America, and establish them as a key alternative dance pop act that had evolved from their original incarnation of fresh-faced Kraftwerkian synthesists, under the creative guidance of co-founder and original member Vince Clarke. By the end of the 1980s, head writer Martin Gore had successfully steered the band’s material into the darker corners of human experience. This song would be one of the best examples of the establishment of their work as having much darker, psychologically complex themes compared to when they first started out.
For instance, there is a distinct human dynamic outlined in this song that most bands were not exploring in the mainstream; the willingness to be subsumed by another. But, is this just about sexual roleplay tied up in religious imagery as it is often assumed? Or, are there implications that go beyond that? Read more
Listen to this track by dance floor-ready Manchester-based post-punk-meets-techno foursome New Order. It’s “Blue Monday”, a single put out originally in 1983 as a forerunner to their second full-length album; Power, Corruption, and Lies. The song would be re-mixed later in the decade and in decades to follow.
The band would be one that grew out of the ashes of another one, namely Joy Division. That former band would be blessed and cursed, laying down a template which is still followed today with any band interested in minimalist, subterranean, darkly textured guitar music. But with lead singer in Ian Curtis gone too soon as the result of illness and self-destruction, their body of work, potent though it is, would remain small.
In the aftermath, guitarist and singer Bernard Sumner took Curtis’ place up front, flanked by bassist Peter Hook, drummer and keyboardist and programmer Stephen Morris, and the addition of keyboardist and guitarist Gillian Gilbert. This track was penned by the whole band, and represented both a turning point for them, and for what would become known as “alternative dance” culture as well for the rest of the ’80s and beyond. But, how did they get from guitar-based post punk to electronic dance music in such a relative short span of time? Read more
Listen to this track by Scottish dance rock proponents and musical genre crossover adventurers Primal Scream. It’s “Loaded”, a hit song as taken from their seminal 1991record Screamadelica. The single was released in February 1990, over a year before the full album came out.
The song would be something of an anthem to the dance scenes all over Britain on its release, with a dash of ’60s iconoclast ingredients worked into its fabric. There are certainly musical ingredients to be found in what was once a humble remix that most assuredly helped to turn it into a hit single.
One of the defining elements to the song of course is the use of audio clips from the 1966 film The Wild Angels, starring Peter Fonda as a hard-riding member of a motorcycle gang, and a guy who knows what he wants to do; to be free, to get loaded, have a good time, to have a party.
Some themes never get old.
And beyond that, it certainly spoke to the burgeoning acid house scene at the same time. Read more
Listen to this track from nervy nouveau new wave nabobs with a dancefloor fixation, the Montreal-based four-piece First You Get The Sugar. It’s a highlight from their upcoming debut record, “Tell Your Mama”, a tune that mixes rock instrumentation with post-punk attitude, in turn with a danceable groove that will get everyone up under the lights and onto the floor.
The key word here, good people, is groove. It’s an asset in four-piece indie bands that isn’t exactly plentiful. But, First You Get The Sugar has it in spades.
The band themselves are an amalgam of geography as well as style, with members hailing from here in Vancouver (bassist/vocalist Mick Mendelsohn), Toronto (vocalist/guitarist Adam Kagan), San Francisco (guitarist/vocalist Alex Silver), and Montreal (drummer/vocalist Daniel Moscovitch). And there’s got to be some TV nerd DNA in there; the name of the band is a reference from The Simpsons. You fellow TV nerds all know which one. Read more