Watch N° 2
It's been said many times before, but today's pop music scene is one dominated by producers rather than musicians. (Yes, that's an overstatement, but the core point remains: the music that surrounds us is made with the notion that a good producer -- and not necessarily a good artist -- is what makes a hit single.)
BBBD's expressed a love and adoration for Erol Alkan several times before, but we want to solidify this opinion into something a little more meaningful and substantive. What makes this guy so good? We all know that he (1) took a promising young band, Late of the Pier, and rejiggered them into the spastic club-meets-post-punk-pop they are today, (2) picked up the Long Blondes before they embarked on the hyperbolic sophomore slump and spit them back out as an angsty, hook-riddled, ultra-clean and concise outfit, (3) gave Mystery Jets a shiny waxing and through them reinterpreted the nuggets of the 1980s in a totally not cool-because-it's-ironic sort of way, (4) spun decaying Klaxons in an unexpected manner, and (5) is supposedly producing those aged hipsters representing the Sound of Scotland, 2008, Franz Ferdinand ... but we don't really look at his technical prowess and admire what he's doing behind the mixing boards; for all we know, he could be just a lucky guy springboarding of his long and successful club circuit in the right place at the right time.
Alkan is applying what is noticeable old and tried to an era of music that is in constant denial of its place in history and the tradition of pop. It ought to strike us all as slightly strange that so many music journalists, critics, and tastemakers -- BBBD included -- note that the best bands of today always sound like someone else who was most likely cooler than them, more authentic than them, and more original than them. A sweeping and broad statement, yes, but comments like, "Franz Ferdinand sounds like a band right out of 1980" or "Long Blondes could've opened for Gang of Four in 1979" isn't necessarily flattering; it's a bit condescending and discredits the fact that such acts are living in their own time, making their own music, and doing their own thing. All music is derivative, but that doesn't mean that we have to make such comments front and center.
So, Alkan takes the old and doesn't attempt to imagine himself a musician or producer living through the times of Martin Hannett ...
Furthermore -- and this is the yeah, duh remark -- he applies the techniques he picked up as a renowned DJ to every track he works on, a characteristic that is readily pointed out, but rarely highlighted as one of the most important facets of his work. Alkan reappropriates an aesthetic that no one else before him could've ever injected into music -- there was no London scene quite like the one he matured in ever before and there was definitely no club Trash until 1997. Alkan took advantage of the situation he prospered in and catapulted to success by merging his unique gifts from his nightclub tenure and the dedicated study of the Old Master he had under his belt.
So listen to these Long Blondes b-sides as they're absolute proof of his genius. "Five Ways to End It (Erol Alkan 12" Mix)" is the most obvious testament to Alkan's dance music abilities, and a solid one at that. "I'm Coping" is one of Long Blondes' greatest lyrical achievements, and really deserved to be on Couples. Is this song about cutting off a relationship or quitting heroin? Hmm. Considering the explosion of Strokes-infused guitar jangling at the end, it's primarily about the latter, but thinly veiled (how does the intial jolt of heroin running through your veins feel any different?) Spectacular. "Whippet Fancier" is a song that could only be composed and performed in the U.K. (who the hell talks about whippets here?) Again, the fills are more club than rock, the lyrics more disco than post-punk, the synth line more theme-song-esque and gimmicky than serious garage; Alkan's production leads one to believe Long Blondes are copycats, imitators of the greats of three decades ago, but dig beneath the surface and you'll find much more going on. The magic this guy works on his bands is awe-inspiring ... absolutely mystifying. He should make his own group with "wizard" in the name, yeah? What card will this wizard reveal to have up his sleeve next?
the Long Blondes - Five Ways to End It (Erol Alkan 12" Mix)
the Long Blondes - I'm Coping
the Long Blondes - Whippet Fancier
the Long Blondes - Never To Be Repeated