There is a select band of unfortunate musical anomalies, micro-trends and fusion mishaps that by right should forever be consigned to the dustbin of sub-genre history. For instance, and in no particular order: acid jazz (sayanara tiny hat-wearing figurehead), lounge-chillout (thanks you for the memories Zero 7), nu-metal (gym music for steroid-depressed bouncers), poppy ska-punk (Dexter Holland looks like Gary Busey: this is weird), 'grindie' (Hadouken! You don't call, you don't write!) trance-core (it was like music, but shitter) and Christian-(insert genre). Front and centre of this grievous rogue's gallery sits the aesthetically horrifying rave-rock; in the Nineties not so much a new dance vocabulary as a way to smuggle some guitar conservatism back into the big-beater's forward-facing lexicon. It's the scene we all have to thank for Apollo 440, the Liam Gallagher-collaborating Death In Vegas, the dire Lo-Fidelity Allstars, Californian naff-sters The Crystal Method and around 13 years on - Brit bass purveyors South Central: not, you might say, one of dance music's greatest innovators.
While it cobbles together a number of styles, it's the hegemony of toothless, turbo guitar-dance that is law on Society Of The Spectacle. Hailing from former big-beat nerve centre Brighton, on this, their second LP, the duo try for smouldering digi-punk but fall a couple of strides short of moody pogo music for Red Bull-bulging tweenies. The soulless but quite lovely 'Fourth Way' aside, the entire project smacks of the type of non-specific, tacky fare that directors of noisy American blockbusters consider futuristic and edgy - the kind of bloodless dreck Californian frat-boys use to soundtrack their beery tours around stale Vegas casinos. Most probably their next stop will be Fifa 2012's pause-screen or amping a Fast and Furious race sequence.
To their credit, South Central can whip up a salty racket when compelled. Taking heavily from Surrender-era Chemical Brothers (harsh tones, magnetic tape sounds, pitched-down vocals) 'SOS' upgrades the relentless likes of 'Out of Control and 'Under The Influence' with a speed-tweaking lead-line; while the title track is austere (to a point) and punishing, adequately justifying their role as warm-up men for RATM and Iron Maiden. Elsewhere, barbarous electro-rocker 'Crawl' is a highpoint, featuring a rent-cheque cameo from one Gary Numan. The duo seem to have advanced their thought process especially for the occasion and as such it's immeasurably richer than the rest of the album.
'Paris In The Twenty First Century' is Pendulum via Chase and Status and gives new meaning to the phrase 'Bukkake-step' - all milky mid-range swizz interspersed with vocalist Rob spouting emo-gooey platitudes from his auto-tune filter. Like the similar 'No Way Back' it's quite disgusting, and further proof that wobble has more in common with 'rawking-out' than dance music. Meanwhile, Oliver Ackerman of A Place To Bury Strangers phones in musical history's most obvious guitar part on 'The Moth' and at the risk of overstating the case 'Demons' is frankly unlistenable; Vitalic as interpreted by the cats from Apple's Piano Cats app.
'Anima' is a ham-fisted attempt to make devil horns from Daft Punk's Interstella 5555 and highlights South Central's most glaring shortcoming – the drum bro-gramming(sic); some of the most remedial sequencing this side of Sleigh Bells. They've also supplanted big beat's crucial hip hop element with rave's other contribution to Asbo culture - electro house, exchanging the breaks, psyche-punk heaviness and rude funk for Teutonic, kinetically lacklustre assonance, neither deadly or euphoric enough to work and surviving solely on faked build-ups, jarring breakdowns, and deus ex machina choruses.
Also, because it's a dance album, they go and get all meaningful - aspiring to 'themes' and 'an overarching message' etc. As a result we get Rob hissing lairy sub-Underworld slogans about media control and routine on 'Bionic' (most of the lyrics rhyme with 'moronic' as it happens). It leaves them sounding more outdated than the decade-old trend they ape; a sound which seemed vaguely outdated the first time around. All told, those super-happy-hero-pills you've been hoarding could be put to better use elsewhere.
3John Calvert's Score