For some reason, I woke up this morning with my head stuck in the arse of spring 1997.
If you’ll recall, that’s when the Music Industry and its phalanx attempted to shove this “new” genre of synthesizer-based music called “Electronica” down our collective throats. For about six weeks, MTV and MTV2 aired electronic music after midnight. Compilations were issued by the dozens.
“This is the next grunge! This is what’s going to sell! Middle-American teenagers with no access to club drugs, let alone dance clubs, are really going to dig these wacky Europeans and their rainbow-colored hair!”
Obviously, that didn’t happen. The industry quickly abandoned Electronica in favor of teen-pop (by May 1997) when U2′s Pop charted to lackluster success. For the most part, the music was uninspiring — 6- to 8-minutes of bleeping and blooping and static in a formless, ambient, tuneless mess. There was little hook-loving teens could grab onto. But there was some memorable stuff in all those instrumental/extended tracks.
A few years later, Fat Boy Slim and Moby — and teen pop itself — rode synthesizers and programmed beats to the top of the charts.
So, here, I revisit the best of the 1997 electronic-music push:
Daft Punk – “Da Funk”
One of the deepest grooves of the time set to one of the coolest videos. This one got huge play on MTV.
The Chemical Brothers – “Setting Sun”
Next to Daft Punk, The Chemical Brothers were the best act to emerge in America during Electronica. This track, featuring Oasis’ Noel Gallagher on vocals, has always been a favorite of mine.
U2 – “Mofo”
This nasty track — like the best electronic music – actually rocked. But if U2 can’t make something mainstream, it ain’t gonna happen.
Gus Gus – “Believe”
This is where most Americans drew the line, right? How much more alienating could electronic pop get? Add this freaky visual and 15-year-olds tuned out permanently. But it holds up remarkably well. And, yeah, that video’s still so creepy and strange.
The Prodigy – “Breathe”
Laughably cartoon-ish now, these blokes were on Madonna’s label and hyped and hyped and hyped and disappeared. This — their last real hit — is still their most menacing and best.
Bentley Rhythm Ace – “Bentley’s Gonna Sort You Out”
Still one of the funniest and most intriguing music videos I’ve seen, this is also a terrific little song — like pop, funk and ’60s kitsch tossed in a blender without the lid on.