9 October 2009

Rants In E Minor: Dubstep, I just don't get it!

NME.com recently published this article, on dubstep, proclaiming 2009 to be the year that dubstep "broke". Now forgive me for being pernickity, but the term "broke" or "breaking" usually refers to becoming prominent in the mainstream, say like Arctic Monkeys in 2005/2006 or the explosion of punk in 1976/77. Let me ask you, can you see anything like either of those right now in mainstream culture? I certainly can't. NME have done this before, in 2007, when punk supposedly broke for a second time (conveniently 30 years after the original) but really it was only Gallows who achieved a modicum of fame outside of the underground. In comparison to the Atlantic Ocean-sized impact of the Sex Pistols, The Clash et al, Gallows were like the water in your toilet.

Similarly, dubstep has had little if no affect on the modern world. Okay, punk didn't exactly turn the world on it's head, but it's impossible to ignore the affect it had. Fantastic music that was different to anything heard before, a youth sub-culture that came to symbolise both the genre and the latter half of that decade and a DIY ethic that has survived to this very day. Unfortunately that ethic has helped create this abortion of a genre At the risk of sounding like a wholly out-of-touch 60-something, dubstep is little more than repetitive instrumentals with the occasional looped electronic riff thrown in. It's like listening to fucking Kraftwerk. The genre is miles away from breaking anything; its three biggest points so far, in terms of exposure, are Burial's nomination for the Mercury Prize, a Britney remix and Skream's kinda good remix of La Roux's "In For The Kill". That's it; two b-side remixes and the token urban genre nomination for a prize losing prestige faster than you can say Speech DeBelle.

Whilst almost every other epoch-defining and groundbreaking music genre of the modern era has had widespread appeal and following (Rock N Roll, Punk, Electronica, Dance and House), dubstep seems to be the preserve of either nerdy enthusiasts, with encyclopedic knowledge of the genre, or middle class suburban white kids, yearning to be cool and out there. I'm sure the creators of dubstep tracks put a lot of heart, soul and effort into their music, but it seems like the simplest genre about. Subterranean bass, unbelievably dull and repetitive beats, moody atmosphere, a little cyclical keyboard hook thrown in every now and then, and in Burial's case, snippets of noise from the urban world. Stoned braindead chimps could make an album of this tripe, no problem.

What I find immensely puzzling is that, for a kind of music derived from dance and hip-hop, it borders on impossible to actually dance normally to any dubstep track. Alright, I can't dance normally anyway, but there's actually no way of "rhytmically moving" to it. The most played track in clubs, to my limited knowledge, is Skream's mix of "In For The Kill" and that only even approaches danceable in the last minute or so. What do people do when it comes on? Shuffle and sway for four minutes, then all of sudden start throwing shapes for 60 measly seconds. This is probably one of the reasons I dread going into "indie" clubs. Already-overly-awkward and pasty indie kids pulling their most awkward moves to boring bollocks like this.

Of course I'm not a complete luddite, and hate all things not played on guitar. I like dance music, I like Burial's albums, despite the lack of variety. But to say that dubstep has "broke" and is no part of mainstream culture is as stupid as saying the Lib Dems are favourites for the next election or Katie Price is a respectable human being. The genre was 'born' around 1998, so to say it's only just broken 11 years later is evidence enough to me that we've defnitely run out of ideas and have to resort to elevating the leftovers at the bottom of the musical barrel.

1 comment:

ScottD said...

well-crafted rant -- i don't get it either, dude... may as well call it ShlubShlep (sorry best i could do off the cuff).

there's nothing remotely 'dub' about it; it's akin to calling the band Rush a 'reggae' act because a couple of their songs have fleeting moments of two-tone guitar stylie.

i live in San Francisco, California -- the only people who listen to dubstep are suburbanite pukes and the same humanoids who put ground effects and oversize tailpipes on their 'whip'.

i really tried to be open-minded about this garbage but it's a sausage fest of dopes all stroking themselves over bass wobble in their sub.