Pop Punks Sound the Sirens for New Rave's Trip to Nowhere
A case in point is the Klaxons, the band whose debut album Myths of the Near Future, released in the UK this January, recently won the UK's prestigious Mercury Prize. This followed months in which the band had created a buzz and successfully manipulated the media and music industry by inventing the fake music category of 'New Rave' to promote their eclectic pop music.
"We wanted to create a non-existent music genre and see how far we could get the world's music press to talk about nothing," Jamie Reynolds, the band's 27-year-old co-singer and bassist, explained by telephone from England. "It got to the point where it was being talked about all over the world. People were trying to chase this thing and understand something that doesn't exist. What it boils down to is that we put two words together in an attempt to get the world's media to talk about nothing."
The 'New Rave' label touted by the band as a means of getting media and industry attention has become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Although the vast majority of Klaxons fans are too young to be familiar with the original rave scene, they have enthusiastically adopted some of its more superficial elements – coming to gigs with glowsticks and even imitating some of the loopy, druggy dance moves popular in the early 1990s. Despite this, Reynolds remains adamant that the whole 'New Rave' label that launched their career was nothing but a hoax.
"Nobody's hit upon exactly what it is, because there is nothing to discover," he said. "I continue to tell people there's nothing for them to find, but they keep chasing a non-existent style."
So, if it's not 'New Rave,' what exactly is the Klaxon's music? Strangely, despite its 'uncool' and negative connotations, Reynolds is quite happy to use the word pop in defining the Klaxons.
"We categorize ourselves as a successful pop band," he declared. "All we ever said we wanted to do was be a successful pop band when we started. And I think over the last 18 months or 2 years that's exactly what we've achieved. That's all we ever wanted to be, and that's how we find ourselves."
The pop label fits the upbeat and fun-oriented aspects of their music, which is danceable and eclectic in its influences, and has an element of mischievous mayhem.
"We've just added the element of fun and excitement and opened up people's tastes to many form of music," Reynolds commented on the reason's for the band's success. "We've brought enjoyment back into music and we've allowed people to explore other avenues."
Some of their songs, like their top-ten UK single, Golden Skans, with its catchy melody and lush harmonies, give off a smooth 'pop' feel, but others have a harder, grittier edge that is also a very important part of the band's appeal. The pre-album single Atlantis to Interzone, for example, mixes punky choruses with a skanky dance vibe, throwing in a few rave sirens just for effect.
Also, the ebullience of their music masks a darker subtext that can be found in the lyrics. Atlantis to Interzone is a lyrical reference to William S. Burroughs' book Interzone, a collection of surreal Kafkaesque pastiches and autobiographical sketches relating his drug-addled and homoerotic experiences in Tangiers, Morocco. Other favorite references include the dystopian novels of Thomas Pynchon and J.G. Ballard, and, in the song Magick, even the works of the early-20th-century Satanist Aleister Crowley.
"That just reflects a lifetime of interest," Reynolds explained. "We tried to put those influences into pop music because we wanted to make a record about fantasy and nowhere, making sure we didn’t make a record about anything we could feel, touch or hear. The most exciting thing for us regarding the track Magick was that we had just earned a major record deal and we wanted to put out a single about a subject that has typically brought nothing but trouble for bands in the past as our first release on a major record label."
These dark and dangerous elements nevertheless serve a useful function, helping to maintain a tension in the group's music and image that counterbalances their cuter pop side.
"We're excited to be singing about dark subjects, while, at the same time, covering it in pop music," Reynolds said. "When we wrote Atlantis to Interzone we found that very funny. We've always had this dream of having 13 or 14-year-old fans singing about Interzone, without really knowing what it was about."
2nd of November, 2007
International Herald Tribune Asahi Shimbun