Album: Klaxons, Surfing the Void, Polydor

Klaxons are back – but has the nu-rave crowd moved on?
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The Independent Culture

I spent the summer of 1988 – the "Summer of Acieed" – working on a building site. I wasn't a raver: the one rave I attended left me depressed at the gangsterism and naked money-ripping around the scene. I wasn't a typical builder either, being a goth kid trying to stay afloat in the holidays while studying French and philosophy at uni. But I was amazed, every day, at the number of my fellow workers who were both: wedge-haired casuals who'd roll into work each morning still saucer-eyed from a night at Shoom.

If there was one crucial difference between old rave and nu rave, other than that of scale, it's that the main participants in the latter were philosophy students rather than narcotically altered navvies. Klaxons' valiant attempt to square that circle – or rather, to big fish little fish cardboard box that circle – resulted in a rightly acclaimed, Mercury-winning debut album, a record which tried to reference JG Ballard and make you dance at the same time, and was more successful than most of their peers in blending the cerebral and the physical (you didn't hear words such as "exponential" and "Sargasso" at a Hadouken! gig).

Three years is an eternity in pop culture, and the shallow tide that bore them ashore has receded, leaving them high and dry (albeit still with a major record deal). Meanwhile, successive waves of bands – Friendly Fires, Foals, Delphic – have picked up the indie-dance baton. Whether anyone's still listening is debatable. Nevertheless, it's been time well-spent.

Surfing the Void is a denser, more complex and intense experience than its predecessor, as well as being noisier, more distorted and more mangled. Lead single "Echoes" and second track "The Same Space" are both reminiscent of the aforementioned Delphic, which may sound unfair as Klaxons were there first. Then again, Joy Division and Kate Bush were both first to the beat they use on "Venusia", so it's all relative.

It's an album which peaks late, with the elegiac "Future Memories" and the almost Cubist angularity of "Cypherspeed". It's also an album which, heard out of context in pretty much any era, would be an ear-jolting, borderline mind-blowing listen. But pop can be cruel.