Here – is it just me, or are you as sick as I am of pasty-faced middle-class white boys running round, crowning themselves the self-appointed fucking arbiters of what’s cool? I mean, letting these moon-eyed bastards dictate to us is just so fucking nineties. I lay awake at night, hoping for some kind of plague, hopefully a sexually transmitted one, to spread like wildfire throughout the burgeoning trustafarian population and wipe the whole degenerative pox of them off the face of the planet. But it never happens. Instead, acting more like some kind of virulent influenza spewing forth from the splutterings of a Chinese chicken farmer, the fuckers just keep on mutating and coming back for more.
This week it’s dubstep. Dubstep is cool. The Fashion Gods have said so. Of course, last week it was dubstep and next week it will probably be dubstep again, but I’m speaking figuratively. What I’m saying is that dubstep is fashionable now, the disease has mutated again, and it’s come back even stronger. Domestos isn’t going to stop it, and besides, throwing bleach in the face of the nearest mullet-sporting music geek is, on reflection, going to get you arrested. Sadly.
But why dubstep? An aside, dear reader, if you’ll bear with me. I want to say that I hate drum ‘n’ bass. In fact, I loathe it. After a considerable number of years listening to it, the very sound of an amen break now makes me want to tear giant holes in my own head with a huge fuckoff fucking drill. This is how much I hate drum ‘n’ bass. As a genre, it’s restrictive, pretentious, insular, elitist and, dammit, I’m going to come out and say it – not interested in music… at least not in any kind of creative sense.
How many times can you re-hash the same sample over and over again before you go out of your mind and wind up booking a six year stay in a padded cell? I saw a man in the street last week actually wearing a t-shirt with ‘amen’ and a little soundwave written on it, and I very nearly succumbed to the urge to kick him right in the knackers. I’m telling you, I lived in Bristol for the best part of three years, and ‘the spiritual home of drum and bass’ damn near sent me off my cracker. ‘There were too many twats in Bristol,’ I said the other week. ‘So I moved back to Shoreditch.’ Really.
Drum and bass is like this. It’s music for the people who say they don’t like poems, they only like sonnets. Or worse, still, it’s music for the sort of people who write haiku and find some kind of deep spiritual meaning in it – and then bore the rest of us with explanations of why this is the case for hours on end. I want, frankly, to lay these people to waste with chunky gallons of the toxic semen that issues forth from my throbbing member, screaming ‘it’s all the fucking same!’ at them over and over again. Until they drown.
As far as I can see, there are only two reasons why drum ‘n’ bass is still with us. Firstly it’s dance music that isn’t house. God knows, I loathe house. In fact, the best thing that you can say about drum ‘n’ bass is that it isn’t house. Or spiral techno for that matter, but you get my point. However, this fact alone cannot account for why the whole stinking genre has hung around us like a fart in an spacesuit for the best part of a decade. No – the reason why drum ‘n’ bass has stuck around for so long is because those moon-eyed, beautiful party people, these screaming pricks, these great arbiters of cool, have kept it there. Since hip hop was appropriated by teenage girls, wannabe hoes, (and let’s face it, the UK scene has never produced any decent hip-hop anyway), it’s the only credible ‘urban’ genre we’ve got.
You see, drum ‘n’ bass is from the ‘streets’ (as opposed to what? Bucolic countryside alliance hardcore?) and therefore its credibility is immediately plundered by middle class white kids to dance, make out, and take their fucking pills to. Don’t you people get it? Nobody from the ‘streets’ gives a monkey’s sputum-seeping cock whether it’s techstep or clownstep or whatever other sub-genres you’ve invented in your fucking bedroom, tapping away on your message boards in between tossing off to ‘Tight Buns III – the assmaster returns’. It doesn’t! fucking! matter!
Until now. Because dubstep is cool. It’s grime cleaned up for the middle-class white-boy market. And now it’s everywhere. Drum ‘n’ bass died last year. The final nail in its putrescent corpse’s coffin was hammered home when Pendulum’s ‘Hold Your Colour’ achieved mainstream crossover success. Until then, somehow, the genre was still credibly ‘underground,’ but now I’ve got mates from my school days who don’t even know what an amen break is talking about going to Pendulum gigs and necking six pills, not necessarily in that order. And the cool as fuck music nerd doesn’t like this. It just isn’t… you know… cool anymore.
That’s where dubstep comes in. The bass is far more important than the percussion, and that means it’ll never pass the ‘radio test’ – so long as people can’t play it on shitty speakers, it’ll never catch. Phil Spector understood this forty years ago when he invented the Wall of Sound technique. But dubstep isn’t even music to dance to, so it appeals to the bedroom nerd crowd even more. They can sit there in their bedrooms, smoking spliffs and drinking tinnies to their hearts’ content, listening to one cold, soulless track that sounds virtually indistinguishable from the last, safe in the knowledge that this music will always be underground, that they can always outdo each other on internet message boards on the minutiae of their bass response, and that the masses will never know what the whole thing’s about.
Dubstep is cool, God help us. I’m not denying that there’s some good dubstep out there. In fact, there’s a lot, a lot that I love. But for every decent track I’ve heard, there’s ten poorly produced bedroom facsimilies. If you’re a producer out there reading this, then please, have a care – produce something original, and don’t just copy everyone else. The last thing we need is for the dubstep scene to become another genre like drum ‘n’ bass.
Illustration by Monsta
Originally published TTI CD 002, 2006.