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What Happened To Dance Music?

Jun 9, 2008
What is the first thing you hear when when you switch the radio on? If you are lucky enough to tune-in in time to actually catch some music, the chances are it's the latest breed of new-wave-new-rave-alternative-shouty-vocalised-indie-rock. (I call it guitar music for short.) Such has been the case for a number of years now, since the demise of the Higher States of Consciousness and the invasion of the Gallagher brothers in the early nineties.

When perusing the archives of the Guardian Online, I came across an article entitled, "Bored of Dance" which documented the downfall of some of the UK's finest dance acts throughout the last decade. Fatboy Slim enjoyed less success in the Charts with the release of his last album, Palookaville, whilst the once popular magazines reporting the scene went out of business completely.

Muzik, Ministry and Jockey Slut once supplied readers with news, reviews and future releases of all upcoming dance acts. Today, the sole survivor of the onslaught is Mixmag, fighting the good fight alone in a world full of "guitar music" magazines such as KERRANG, Metal Hammer and NME. But the question is, if dance music is as dead as they say, then why the huge queues to get into the clubs, and why are there still so many many festivals with self proclaimed "dance tents?" The answer is simple: Dance music never died, it simply morphed into something else.

I believe it began when Bloc Party broke into the scene at the turn of the century. Their debut album, Silent Alarm forged a new sound that was just what dance fans needed - a mix of real instruments, fast beats and catchy basslines. Move on a few years and we now have the likes of The Klaxons, (champions of New Rave) Foals (Math-Rock anyone?), and The Futureheads. These bands seem confused as to where their loyalties lie. On one night they will be playing to a sell out crowd at Brixton Academy, whilst the next night sees them spinning tunes on the ones and twos at an underground warehouse party.

Coincidentally, we have an abundance of dance acts with equally confused identities. Justice, Paris' latest dance act are a couple of skinny-jean wearing, leather jacket clad producers who are hell bent on redirecting the scene. Their fusion of overly-compressed basslines and quirky electro beats has won fans from every genre of modern music. Equally, Soulwax (headed up by Belgian brothers David and Stephan Dewaele) continue their two pronged assault on our ears through a combination of live shows and "mash up" mixes like never heard before.

If the amalgamation of sounds presented here doesn't float your boat, try something a little more suited to Radio 2's playlist. LCD Soundsytem have recently released their second album, entitled Sound of Silver and present listeners with something that David Byrne would have been proud of. Their harmonious blend of real instruments, Casio keyboards and male vocals has proved a massive hit with music listeners young and old

The effect of this on the music industry is quite the opposite to the Guardian's title, "Bored of Dance". A new breed of music created a new breed of fan and subsequently there are no longer any boundaries. So what if I like dancing the night away in a grimy London club, I'm still allowed to wear skinny jeans.

So when you next hear someone say that dance music is dead, politely point out that dance music actually led the revolution that created the best sounds of this century. For the first time ever, rock, pop, breaks and beats all sit happily together under the same umbrella.
About the Author
Samantha is an expert Research and Theatre consultant. Her current interests are UK shortbreaks including LEGOLAND Windsor and Drayton Manor..
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