Electroclash Is Dead. That's what the NME - once the movement's main media cheerleader - has decided. And this is surely for the best. If the bandwagon-jumpers and dollar-chasers run along and play with some other new toy, then those of us who have always loved electronic pop, and always will, can continue about our business unencumbered by fashion.
In any case, if the party is over, then nobody's told the round-the-block crowds who pack out Nag Nag Nag every Wednesday. Held at The Ghetto, the former backstreet London dive which has been transformed by gay clubland's visionary genius Simon Hobart, and run by Jo Jo De Freq and Jonny Slut, Nag has become a nightlife phenomenon to rival Trash. It's the sort of place where students mix with celebs, where you wait your turn behind Kate Moss for the make-up mirror, and where the presence of Boy George, checking out Pink Grease last week, didn't even merit a double take.
All of this is doubtless the reason why Slut and George were invited by The Electric Ballroom, Camden Town's venerable old dancehall, to help celebrate their 65th birthday with a one-off event called Electrolush. Unfortunately, the Ballroom is maybe only a quarter full. No matter: those who made the effort felt all the more privileged.
The DIY, have-laptop-will-travel nature of the genre lends itself to eccentricity. When a man called Adam Sky, with an overgrown fin and shades takes the stage and does a bizarre electro version of "Papa Oom Mow Mow", you barely blink, until someone tells you that he used to be early Nineties chartbuster Adamski. He's followed by Atomiser, Jonny Slut's own electro act, who in turn make way for Avenue D, the pink lycra-clad girl duo assembled by Larry Tee, the New York entrepreneur who coined the term "Electroclash" in the first place. Ave D's fabulous "Do I Look Like A Slut?" is something of an anthem on this scene, and their cover of Salt N'Pepa's "Push It" makes perfect sense in context. The main event, though, is the scary-ass clown with the painted-on hair.
"Ich Bin Kunst". So sang Boy George, in character as Leigh Bowery, in the musical Taboo. The message - "I am art" - was Bowery's modus vivendi. The legendary Australian peacock/ provocateur was - to borrow from both Wilde and Bolan - a "walking work of art": his persona was indivisible from his performance. At his best, this applies to George too.
Last time I reviewed Boy George in any capacity, it was Culture Club's heartbreakingly lacklustre show at the Royal Albert Hall. George responded by sending me a huge bouquet of yellow roses via Interflora, with a sarcastic little note attached. They brightened the place up for a week or so. Thanks, George.
But I stand by every word. If you're going to rake over the past, at least make sure your heart and soul is in it. Or - preferably - do something new. Which is where The Twin comes in. George's latest guise is very much an "Ich Bin Kunst" thing. The concept, loosely speaking, is that George has melded Bowery's persona into his own, for a new, schizo superbeing. The Boy George of The Twin is neither the mum-friendly, chat show-happy Culture Club icon, nor the low-key, high-cred club DJ. With his mouth painted into a black Cherie Booth letterbox grimace, eyes plastered in silver dust, and drips of emulsion "hair" running down his scalp, The Twin allows George to vent his acid-tongued freakshow side (he calls me a "lesbian" from the stage tonight, but I probably got off lightly).
The music he's making, too, is 20 times more alive than anything he's done in years, due in no small measure to C33X, the excellent underground art-glam band, fronted by two Lebanese sisters, who are his backing group (they take their name from Oscar Wilde's prison number in Reading Gaol). Above the glitter-rock stomp - they do a version of T.Rex's "Children Of The Revolution" - there are pointed lyrics about people who are obsessed with "who you think I used to be". But The Twin is, thank God, primarily about the future, and forthcoming single "Here Come The Girls" is an irresistibly bitchy synthpop stormer. No roses needed, you can have that one for free.
Tom Jenkinson can also knock out a synthpop stormer when he feels like it, and in 2001, with "My Red Hot Car", he did. However, in common with The Aphex Twin, and indeed most of his Warp labelmates, he more often chooses not to do so, preferring to frustrate the melody-loving listener with deliberately difficult glitchy laptronica. Nevertheless, playing a gig aboard HMS President seemed to suggest that a more playful Squarepusher was at large.
Arriving on board the white pleasure cruiser/ party boat moored on the Victoria Embankment is not unlike stepping into Shoom circa 1988: the air is filled with dry ice, rudimentary strobes and spinning vortices of white light beams, while an unassuming figure with Shaggy face-fuzz twiddles the knobs. The music is generally more complex than the brutality of Acid House, but the atmosphere is, I imagine (never having been a first-hand Shoomer), identical, right down to the scallies trying to blag their way across the gangplank.
On the day which has seen the temperature rocket to record-breaking heights, it's getting hot in herre (as Nelly might illiterately put it), and the male half of the audience respond in kind, by stripping to the waist. There's more naked manflesh in here than the last WWF smackdown. Which is all well and good when Jenkinson is providing the slamming bleeps and beats, but the atmosphere dies somewhat when he returns for an encore with a five-stringed fretless bass and starts thumping out jazz-fusion bass solos, displaying an alarming Level 42 influence. And there is never, ever an excuse for that, heatwave or ice age.Reuse content