Much like an Australian’s opposition in the tallest poppy, so too is music’s aptitude in cutting down what’s popular. While often in direct defiance to what’s deemed uncool or simply ‘done’—“Get knicked!” says punk—other genres form through chance chemistry and pioneering ambition. Even God-honest rock n roll was whittled down after a few years.
There’s a lot to be said about something that can change the way you exist. Without getting all gooey, or 4am at a kick on, music has an innate influence on human function. It can lead rebellion, change cultures or simply your new Nikes. Even the tightest corners of the most niche genres wiggle their way into something spectacular.
In celebration of the new, weird and more often than not, bizarre—each week we’ll be breaking down a genre that’s pushed the boundaries and helped shape popular music today.
It’s mid-2000’s London and the new age of indie rock has begun to get a bit ‘meh’. The Strokes have already saved rock n roll and Pete Doherty is looking more and more like a chewed-up candle every day. Once refreshing, the tones of The Libertines are now a trite mess of overly angular guitars clanging about North London. Legions of hip white dudes trying to be like their New York counterparts flock the streets of a city ready to regain its identity.
Exact origins are divided and somewhat fuzzy, but all accounts hold Klaxons as New Rave’s humble forerunners. Hailing from South East London, the band embodied this distain for an indie scene spent. Finding stimulus in literature giants and 90s rave records, the three-piece stitched together a cacophonous sound that wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. It was a pure attempt at adding vibrancy back into the indie sound—it was just fun.
This sense of squashing polarised elements together struck a chord with a burgeoning youth just wanting to party—to get drunk, sing and throw away all the hang ups of genre elitism. It was one small step toward inclusion and giant leap toward dance music. While many bands like New Young Pony Club, CSS and Shitdisco associated with the emerging scene, it was truly the rise of the dj collective—genre no boundary. Suddenly all these people with music collections could play to packed bars and warehouses. Imagine that, an effortless mix of LCD sound system into Eric B & Rakim into bone-rattling Grime.
As was the music a mash up, so too were the garments. I’m well acquainted and definitely embarrassed to say that I know this all too well. I’ve tried my hardest to hide the fluoro photo evidence, but it always manages to resurface. 80’s font type shirts were back, picture George Michael’s ‘Choose Life’ tee in that Wham! Clip, and incredible accessories—the weirder the better. I once saw a guy rocking a Tonka truck around his neck.
New Rave’s musical stylings and cultural spill over featured on hit TV shows like The Mighty Boosh and Skins. Bizarre, cool and ludicrous, it was just a big embarrassing mess of colour, patterns, chemicals and kids going mental. Though that was the appeal, it was just trashy, self-aware fun.
Like most things cool, it was quickly pounced upon by those ready to turn it into money. Within a year, and to much aghast of the fashion elite, fluoro returned to most collections and mainstream retail stocked up. The mish mash and stupid-for-the-sake-of-stupid had become normal. That sense of community diluted. As quickly as it begun, the ride that was New Rave had died.
Regardless of its brief presence, this weird guest with dyed blonde hair, huge fringe and sequin boots left a parting gift, a taste of what’s on offer if you just say— “fuck it”. The kids were once again a community ready to push boundaries. You could like electro and hip-hop—indie didn’t just have to be four guys playing treble guitar.
For me, New Rave was London’s teenagers realising they sat atop dance music’s richest soil. I mean, they had Acid House for crying out loud. Just a decade prior The Prodigy were releasing Fat of The Land and 2002 had seen Fatboy Slim barnstorm Brighton Beach—why were they bothering with pompous indie rock?
With an inability to define its own borders, New Rave was a reckless tribe that welcomed all. Its swollen lodes oozed a genreless utopia, perhaps it was in this confusion that New Rave lost its way—its artists unable to attach to something that never really defined itself—though, strangely, is that not a definition in itself?
Regardless, as quickly as trends come and go, you’d best not throw away your neon bike pants and Hi Lift Peroxide just yet.
Let us know your favourite music sub-genre down below. It may just make the list!