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London Calling

What’s new in the land of Radiohead, royals, and rugby? Once again, the editors of Britain’s NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS whisk us their monthly report.

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Everyone knows that electroclash is dead, right? This time last year, New York titans of the genre Fischerspooner were signing a £1 million deal with London’s Ministry of Sound label. By the end of 2002, their album (#1, due out in the U.S. in February) flopped, their tour was canceled, and Ministry fell into disarray. It seemed that electroclash and its ludicrous outfits, pretentious lyrics, and trashy ’80s synths were toast.

But no one told the denizens of Nag Nag Nag. Named after a song by synth pioneers Cabaret Voltaire, Nag isn’t just London’s hottest weekly party but the wildest the capital has seen since famed early-’90s cross-dressing fiesta Kinky Gerlinky. Every Wednesday, eye-shadowed men and women in pig masks and spiked, skintight PVC trousers queue round the block to get into this subterranean Soho sweatbox. There, they go bananas to electro old and new (from the Normal’s 1978 classic ”Warm Leatherette” to Freeform Five’s anthemic ”Perspex Sex”).

And the freak show seems to be drawing a crowd. Sober U.K. broadsheet The Guardian claims the male regulars’ extravagant sartorial sense heralds a revolution in menswear. Celebs like Kate Moss, Bjork, and Boy George flock there weekly.

Beyond fashion, Nag’s success proves that electroclash is becoming dance music as significant as house, U.K. garage, and on these shores, hip-hop. Electro tracks like Bangkok Impact’s nine-minute, vocoder-driven ”Masters of the Universe,” Water Lilly’s sticky sweet ”Let Me Be Your Fan,” and Miss Kittin and the Hacker’s ”The Beach” are pouring in from all corners of the world. You can hear some of them on Swiss-based label Mental Groove’s compilation Where Is Here, or Ghostly International’s Italo-house-flavored Tangent 2002: Disco Nouveau.

Claims of electroclash’s death actually gave its practitioners a space in which to do their thing without the intrusion of rubbernecking part-timers. And having rediscovered the joys of outrageous dress and Giorgio Moroder bass lines, London’s hedonists aren’t about to give it up anytime soon. — Alex Needham, NME Associate Editor




PANJABI MC — ”Mundian To Bach Ke” (Instant Karma/Showbiz) Hip-hop has borrowed copiously from Asia in recent months (think Truth Hurts and Erick Sermon). Now Coventry-based bhangra star Panjabi MC returns the compliment with this Knight Rider-sampling piece of madness.

THE THRILLS — ”One Horse Town” (Virgin) Five youngsters from Dublin endorsed by Morrissey, the Thrills remold ’70s West Coast U.S. rock (a la the Beach Boys) into something swoony and Big Star-shaped.

THE 22-20S — ”Such a Fool” Unsigned, but not for long. The 22-20s’ electric storm of sound has captivated every A&R man in Britain. Already being talked about as the U.K.’s most likely counterblast to foreigners like the Hives, the Vines, and the Strokes. <