Monday, January 16, 2006

"techno haunted by the ghost of punk"

Talking of spectres stalking on the outskirts, negation, etc, here's some sort of ghost--the ghost of future-passed, or past-futurism, or bygone-portent-of-the-now.... something uncanny like that, anyway. From 1994, a little Melody Maker piece on a group that really tickled my fancy. Context: this was circa the New Wave of New Wave's retro-punk--S.M.A.S.H., These Animal Men, etc.

D-Generation are highly influenced by '60s mod and freakbeat. This Manchester trio took their name from The Eyes' "My Degeneration", a parody of The Who's anthem. D-Generation love the psychedelic/psychotic intensity of freakbeat bands like The Eyes, John's Children, The Creation, but they don't want to recreate it. Psychedelia means abusing technology, they argue, and today that means fucking with samplers and sequencers, not guitars.
Unlike These Animal Men and Blur, D-Generation haven't forgotten that mod was short for modernist. The original mods wanted to fast-forward into the future, not replay lost
golden ages. So D-Generation's "psychedelic futurism" draws on ambient and jungle--music that's absolutely NOW, absolutely BRITISH. And instead of the usual iconography of swinging London or English whimsy, D-Generation pledge allegiance to a "dark, deviant tradition"
of Englishness that includes The Fall, Syd Barrett, Wyndham Lewis, Powell/Pressburger and Michael Moorcock.
D-Generation's atmospheric dance is like a twilight-zone Ultramarine--lots of English imagery, but instead of bucolic bliss, the vibe is urban decay, dread and disassociation. On
their EP "Entropy In the UK", "73/93" rails against the "Nostalgia Conspiracy", using Dr Who samples of "no future". D-Generation call their music "techno haunted by the ghost of
punk" and on 'The Condition Of Muzak' that's literally the case, as it samples Johnny Rotten's infamous taunt: 'ever get the feeling you've been cheated?". Originally, the target was
rave culture itself, but this has widened out, says band ideologue Simon Biddell, "to implicate the entire culture of cynical irony." Then there's "Rotting Hill", a stab at "a 'Ghost Town' for the '90s"; Elgar's patriotic triumphalism is offset by samples from the movie Lucky Jim--"Merrie England? England was never merry!".
D-Generation, says Biddell, are dismayed by the way "young people are content to embrace a rock canon handed down to them, and seem unable to embrace the present, let alone
posit a future." But they're optimistic about the emergence of "a counter-scene, bands like Disco Inferno, Bark Psychosis, Pram, Insides, who are using ambient and techno ideas but
saying something about the 'real world', not withdrawing from it".
Add D-Generation to the list of this nation's saving graces.

Some of my colleagues thought--assumed, actually--I'd just made up them up out of thin air, so much did they seem like a tissue wrought out of my obsessions of the time. And there's certainly something eerie about the way D-Generation's talk portends of my recent and current preoccupations: the past-gone-mad rift-of-retro nostalgia industry thing, the invocations of postpunk ("Ghost Town", The Fall... and just think of the role that the sentence "ever get the feeling you've been cheated?" plays in Rip It Up and Start Again), hauntology/memoradelia....

Here's the fun bit, though--can you guess which very active member of our little community was actually in this band?

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