Review Summary: ASBO disco post new rave grindie quintet make music that isn't for you people.
We'll probably never figure out just what it is that makes music special, but one pretty good argument states that the best popular music has the ability to attach itself to a certain moment in your life and forever remind you of that time. Whether it's "All My Life" being played for the last dance at your prom, or "Angels" reminding you of your best friend's funeral, there's something in that music that has at least lead to somebody choosing to play it in the first place. With that in mind, I don't think I've ever encountered a song so obviously
special, by this criteria, as Hadouken!'s "That Boy, That Girl". Recently I returned to my hometown for a friend's birthday, and with roughly three exceptions, EVERY white person I saw could be described using just the lyrics to this song.
That boy's a Hoxton hero
Skinny fit jeans and dressed in pink
How he dresses I care zero
As long as he don't steal my drink
That girl's an indie Cindy
Lego haircut and polka-dot dress
I don't care if she thinks she's indie
How she's different is anyone's guess
I went to a gig but nobody danced
Everyone was far too cool
All the kiddies, they just stood there
Is it the same at the public schools?
With lyrics as cutting and to-the-point as that, Hadouken! could basically write any old music and the song would at least be a minor success. And yet, the band are sonically mental - if there is such a thing as nu rave, Hadouken! are surely its most perfect proponents yet, a band so far ahead of their contemporaries that people have coined the most hideously bad genre names to describe them ('ASBO disco' and 'grindie' not even being the funniest examples). There's bits of rave, house, chiptune, punk, nu-metal, happy hardcore, grime, big beat, dubstep, Licensed to Ill
, Music For The Jilted Generation
, The Killers, "Atlantis to Interzone" - seemingly everything the band can lay their hands on, good or bad, just as long as it can be played at parent-annoying volume. The only time Music For An Accelerated Culture
stops for breath is the gaps between the songs.
What that means in practice is that the band get better the dumber they get. Anyone disappointed by the unexpectedly normal lead single "Declaration of War" will be pleased to know it's almost the worst song here; striving for this kind of Black Kids-meets-Klaxons semi-epic just plain doesn't suit them (and neither does directly lifting synth lines from the three songs preceding it on the album). No, they're much better even when they're just making as much noise as possible and busting out lyrics that are objectively bad - "Crank It Up" namedrops the iTunes library, MySpace profile songs, MSN Messenger, Trojan viruses, and ringtones, and yet somehow it still works, even if it will be dated by about June 12th. It acts as a fairly good barometer for the album as a whole, too. The band might be adept at describing nights out, but any attempt at insight beyond that is frankly embarrassing; the one-chord "Spend Your Life" is likely to be the worst song you hear all year, boasting as it does an utterly cringe-worthy rant about the credit crunch that the band probably wrote before they left high school. They only really succeed when they're either making their own dumb music, or stealing ideas from other bits of dumb music (note the Adam Ant stomp on "Mister Misfortune", or the UK garage vocal sample on "What She Did") - and luckily, that's exactly what they do for eight of the eleven tracks here. The other exception is the Killers rip "Driving Nowhere", which is inarguably the best sonic departure here - and even that starts with the line 'they go out tonight'.
Yet, sonic departures were never what Hadouken! were going to be about. They announce as much within the first 27 seconds of the album, when a Safri Duo-esque intro gives way to a synth riff that sounds like an ambulance siren trying to play Bodyrox's "Yeah!"; the song is called "Get Smashed Gate Crash", as if you needed a hint. By "Game Over", they're making just about the funniest/cutest rap boast of 2008 so far ('We've got more bars than JD Wetherspoon'), while making constant, blatant references in the direction of Basement Jaxx. On "Liquid Lives" they've dropped all pretense, shouting 'Drink! Smoke! ***! Fight!'. That's basically what you can expect from Music For An Accelerated Culture
- ballsy synths, smart-ass lyrics about getting wasted, and plenty of youthful arrogance and swagger. They're clearly a one-trick pony band, something "Spend Your Life" and "Declaration of War" only throw in sharper relief. Still, it's a good trick, and the album is short enough for it to not become tiresome.
The scene kids Hadouken! attack in a lot of their lyrics will obviously hate this record. They'll probably quote all sorts of reasons - their desperately uncool influences, their shameless desire to have fun, the fact that it's taken 18 months from the release of "That Boy, That Girl" to the release of this album, whatever. They'll probably draw attention to the online marketing the band have proven themselves masters of, or the fact that singer James Smith used to run a grime/dubstep record label, as if either of those details have anything to do with music. Regardless, the reason the straight edge/Libertines fanboy/stupid haircut/4chan music forum set won't like this is simply because it's not meant for them. It's meant for the people who mock those people, for the people that think having fun is still the primary reason to listen to music and sharing an interest is still the best reason to tell their mates about a band. Music For An Accelerated Culture
might not be the most impressive, consistent, or timeless record you'll hear this year, but Hadouken! know their audience, know their music, and know their culture, and when they get things right they're quite simply the best at what they're doing right now.