ELECTROCLASH 2002 with LARRY TEE, PEACHES, CHICKS ON SPEED, W.I.T. and TRACY + THE PLASTICS at Tequila Lounge (794 Bathurst), Tuesday (October 15). $12. 416-968-2001. Rating: NNNNN
If you did a Google search for the term electroclash 12 months ago, you would've gotten exactly zero matches. Do it today and you get up to 16,000 hits. A year ago, most DJ record stores had a smattering of electro-flavoured releases mixed in with the techno. Now most have sections devoted to the music.
Last October, New York DJ and promoter Larry Tee staged the first Electroclash Festival over a week in six different clubs. It drew 7,000 people and gave the music media a handy term to use as an umbrella for a wide range of punk-influenced, performance-oriented electronic music inspired by the sounds and rhythms of 80s electro music.
"I didn't really pick out electroclash as a genre term," explains Larry Tee over the phone from his New York apartment. "What I was trying to describe was the combination of electro with new elements, a more performance-oriented style. It's reminiscent of something I liked the first time around, but I've been waiting 20 years for these ideas to become finished."
Though many people are baffled by the astounding rise to fame of artists associated with the electroclash tag, Tee claims to have spotted the potential of the style from the beginning.
"When I found these artists, I realized that they're fun and great to look at. They're political just by their very existence. I was really excited when I saw how much star power they had. With its performance-art style, sexual content and cool intellectual aspect, I thought it was really great and fresh music in general, outside of just the electro scene."
The politics of electroclash aren't as in your face as punk rock can be, nor are they earnest as folk music. Much of the message is based on satire and, more importantly, self-parody. Finding a clear statement in this music isn't easy. It's meant to provoke an examination of the cult of celebrity. This takes on new levels of irony when darlings of the UK press Fischerspooner sign a deal with Ministry of Sound for $2 million and Peaches gets adopted by the fashion industry.
"I don't think that the new generation of kids really want to be nagged about voting or the ozone layer. I don't think it really speaks to them. But they do understand this parody of gross celebrity excess, commercialization and hype. They get the exaggerated sexuality of Peaches. They understand what it's saying."
Of course, the faster the hype built up, the faster the backlash came. Many purist electro artists who had been working in this area for a while, without the performance aspect and the extra attitude, saw the new movement as just another media-generated fad. A common complaint is that the music is just bad rapping over pre-set Casio keyboard beats, with some goofy costumes and stage routines thrown together to make it look good for the pictures.
"The media is already asking whether electroclash will be dead by Christmas. It's not even on the market yet and people are already trying to declare it dead. Well, I think it's exciting music myself. But do I think everyone is going to like it? No. I hope not -- this is some pretty out-there stuff."