I envy three generations of people:
- Those born 1890-1902 in a major, northern US City. To be 18 in the jazz age, after prohibition is lifted, is a cause of much wonderment and frivolity. Booze is free-flowing, the automobile and air travel are shrinking the world, so it is manageable to travel to East Asia and Europe without there being war or just cause. The booze hounds were masters of creation, from spoken and written word, to modern film to excess. This country, not yet 60 years removed from civil war, but a handful removed from world war and a dozen away from the next global conflict, is collectively discovering itself. What a decade.
- Those born 1940-1952 in the UK. To see the rise of music populism; to watch The Beatles and The Stones and Led Zeppelin and The Velvet Underground define the next half-century in a few quick takes; to systematically watch and take part in a cultural revolution would be divine.
- Those born 1968-1980 in the UK. We’ve seen flappers and rockers…but what about the dancers? For god’s sake, the modern 70s left us with the best remaining band headed into the ninth decade: Joy Division. But that was over in the blink of an eye, upon Ian Curtis’ untimely demise. We were ripe for something not quite disco and not quite alternative. The mainstream culture longed to forget the tragedy of the death of individualism and the rise of unfettered capitalism.
UK Garage was the answer in the late 80s and early 90s. Mixing 4/4 skittishness with high-hat tempo-driven beats and pitch-shifted vocals. Oh, to be in the discotheque watching these sound innovators create sets live, on-the-go and completely earth-shattering. This was sober-music for the quiet girls and drug-music for the dope-fiends.
Jump to 20 years later, the UK garage scene has morphed into dozens of sub-genres, most lacking any semblance of tact. It’s all show and no flow. Footwork, two-step and jungle have given way to a roots and dub culture, almost completely enveloped in the low-end of the sound spectrum, bass. Dubstep, it’s coined and it’s supposedly the logical cotangent of all the decades of dance music. The sounds have spread to the mainland and to the colonies and (unfortunately) The States, who, eight decades later have not figured out how to turn the decadence off. The sounds of dance are honed in clubs of varying degrees of vision.
Jump another decade; Skrillex has turned the subtle art of dance music into McDonalds culture – and we love it. But in all the mess and rubble, Disclosure exists, with their culmination into what they call “future” garage. The genre isn’t “new” sounds but a rework of what made the genre so popular in the early 1990s, but this time with computers. Purists will damn these sounds, but brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence absolutely nail 2013’s version of UK garage. And damn them further for not even being alive for the first incarnation.