Magazine article The Spectator

Air Head

Magazine article The Spectator

Air Head

Article excerpt

As fashions change in music, so does the vocabulary. There are no groups any more, only bands. Even boy bands call themselves bands, although they don't play any instruments. Come to think of it, are there boy bands any more? Take That look like newly retired footballers. When I started this column a thousand years ago, I wanted it called 'pop' music rather than the then-standard 'rock': a prescient move, it turns out, as 'rock' now sounds hopelessly sweaty and arthritic. In dance music the terms change so quickly that you haven't even found out what they mean before they have gone, which at least saves you the bother of finding them out in the first place.

One thing I do know, though: no one uses the word 'chillout' any more. No one. Which probably means it's due for a revival.

There does need to be a term, though, for music with dance origins that is made to be listened to. I speak as someone who dances rarely and badly. Encouraged by my beloved to dance whenever possible, ostensibly to prove that I am not the classically uptight Englishman she knows me to be, I have now been ordered by my children never to dance in their presence, which suits me just fine.

They're no fools, the next generation.

Like everybody else, though, I listen to an awful lot of music that was originally created to be danced to. Swing, rock'n' roll, Motown, Rolling Stones, Mud's 'Tiger Feet', disco, punk . . . you could listen to them, you could dance to them, you could listen to them while dancing to them. Only in the past 20 years has dance music left the listener far behind. Much of it bypasses the ears completely, and heads straight for the internal organs.

So what of bands like Air and Royksopp and the sadly missed Lemon Jelly, and even old floor fillers like Underworld, who have more ideas than that, and nowhere else to put them other than their music? Royksopp's first album, Melody A.M. (2001), had all the range of texture and dynamics you'd expect from a Pink Floyd album, although subsequent releases have suggested that this may have been a fluke. Lemon Jelly had pop instincts but dance-floor intentions: every track went on far too long, which wore me down after a while. …

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