Reverse Mohawks Sell Records - 09.03.97|
I got to writing my review about the Prodigy's new album and it got me thinking about the current state of electronic music. It was approximately one year when the buzz actually started. About this time last year, the hot rumour around the United States was that something called 'electronica' was going to make a big splash here in the next few months. The Prodigy signed to Maverick for a reported 5 million dollars and a duo called the Chemical Brothers were starting to get play on MTV with a video for their song, "Setting Sun."
So what's happened since then? In my eyes, there really hasn't been a 'revolution' of sorts. Its been more like a couple sparks that have failed to produce a fire of any size. Sure, the genre has been catching on a bit, but it isn't anything like the explosion we all saw come out of the Seattle area about 5 years ago. MTV has been trying a bit to encourage some of the music, but their only show (AMP) dedicated to the genre comes on at the almighty peak viewing hours of 12 and 1am. "Block Rockin' Beats" by The Chemical Brothers and "Breathe" by the Prodigy have even managed to make the buzz bin, but the latter was the only one to see a large boost in their album sales. A couple soundtracks have even featured electronic artists (the most recently Spawn), but none of them managed to see huge sales.
Which finally brings me to my point. The Prodigy didn't sell the most albums in their genre because they are the best. As I mentioned in the review, albeit catchy in a few moments, their new album is very predicatable and mediocre at best. The reason they sold the most copies of their disc once again comes down to image-pure and simple. Out of all the electronic groups out their, they wanted to be the most well-known. Keith Flynt had a huge makeover (if you hadn't seen him before, he didn't have any piercings, and his hair was long and curly), and the group popped into the spotlight whenever possible. People may say that Pearl Jam never wanted to be famous, but look at their first videos. "Jeremy" tells a nice little story, but all the while, it is inter-cut with bits of Eddie Vedder crooning away and looking hunky. Even "Smells Like Teen Spirit" features the camera-shy Nirvana strutting their stuff. If they were so damn afraid of being popular, then why were they in the middle of almost every bloody shot? MTV is the ultimate selling tool and Nirvana knew that as well as the Prodigy do now. The other part of this is that even electronic artists like Underworld and The Chemical Brothers, who have appeared in their own videos, lack the image needed to sell lots of music. Instead of hogging the spotlight with a contrived look, they instead look more like the nerdy guys you used to pick on in high-school.
In the end, most people don't buy music for music's sake anymore. Their has to be a image or a gimmick that goes hand in hand with it. I'm not too upset by what has happened in the last year. At least the market hasn't yet completely saturated itself with watered-down versions of original sounding electronic musicians. The revolution may never happen, and I wouldn't be the least bit sad if it didn't. Somehow I don't think the day will ever come when I see Richard D. James gyrating in vinyl pants while go-go girls dance on either sides of him.