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When Derrida used the term hauntology it was to describe his theory about the way in which Marxism’s atemporal nature and the way in which it “…haunt(s) Western society from beyond the grave.” Hauntology is an attempt to explain the ways that certain social and cultural elements from our past persist…haunting our present like a ghost.
The persistence of the past.
Retro as futurism.
The impact of the past on modern music often makes modern music anything but modern. Knees are bent, forelocks are tugged, caps (and bucket hats) are raised and fealty is pledged towards musical icons with such deference that the weight of it bends and breaks the creative efforts of the artists and renders them indistinguishable from the Lords of the pop culture manor.
Is anything ever really new?
A short while ago I read someone describing the new Damon Albarn album as being “challenging” which they then explained was code for “shit”. What that person wanted was not a new Damon Albarn record but another Damon Albarn album that sounded exactly like the Damon Albarn albums they already owned. There is a ghost in their house and that ghost is “Parklife”.
Such is the influence of, and near religious worship afforded to certain bands/artists that the musical landscape in certain fields is nothing more than an endless series of ctrl+v/ctrl+p. The same corpses being dug up, picked over, defiled and then handed on to the next Burke and Hares. That doesn’t mean that the bands living in that field don’t occasionally deliver a pop gem, a rock ’n’ roll thumper or a blitzkrieg bopping terrace anthem, because they do, but it does mean that, more often, we have heard it all before. The extent to which you are prepared to tolerate, and excuse, that is, I suppose, dependent on how willing you are to venerate the original artists. I’m fortunate in that I find both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones to be tiresome.
Looking backwards for inspiration is sensible and advisable, the past is littered with great art, great music and great literature…why wouldn’t you dig around and see what pushed your buttons and then use it to inspire your own efforts?
But please, won’t somebody give me a band who are looking somewhere other than “The Best of The Beatles” or that Rolling Stones album with the cake on the cover.
I just want to be thrilled, honey.
Here come Thrillhouse.
In 1985 Michael Walden, who had enjoyed some success in the R&B scene in the late seventies and early eighties built his own studio and began to produce music. He worked with the likes of Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Michelle Gayle, Sister Sledge, Sheena Easton, Mariah Carey, Lionel Richie…you get the idea? That smooth R&B sound as well as his ability to add the gloss that a hit pop single requires make him one of the most important producers of the eighties. Consciously, or not, Thrillhouse have that same gloss, shimmer and shine in their music.
Listening to a new British indie/independent band who don’t sound like they believe music stopped with George Martin and his work inside Abbey Road is such a delight. Here are a band who understand the truth, rarely acknowledged, that the eighties was the greatest decade in pop music history.
Yes it was.
Across the 16 songs they have released so far, you can hear the likes of the Thompson Twins, Simple Minds, O.M.D, A Flock of Seagulls and other legendary British pop and electro pop acts. At times you can hear the work of Keith Forsey and Harold Faltermeyer too. Nothing in the music being delivered by Thrillhouse would sound out of place on the soundtrack for “The Breakfast Club”. It is almost impossible to listen to something like “Ready When You Are” and not see Andrew McCarthy and Molly Ringwald driving across some urban landscape, late at night, fleeing from some dreadful house party where James Spader has been a creep.
It would have been very easy for Thrillhouse to be a parody, a joke or too clever for its own good experiment in post-modernist creation. But this isn’t a joke, there are no raised eyebrows, no knowing winks. This isn’t ironic. This is music made with love, care and craft. When the last, or the next, group of Northern boys in cagoules release their next pale imitation of Oasis and drone on about The Stone Roses, The Beatles and blah, blah, blah, nobody will accuse them of being anything other than the future of rock ’n’ roll. Such is the power of the ghost of the sixties that continues to haunt the collective psyche of modern British pop culture.
Thrillhouse are better than any of the bands scavenging over the corpse of Britbeat and Britpop. Of course they are looking backwards but, thank God, they are looking at a different moment, drawing from a well where the water isn’t quite so stale. It would have been easy, too easy, for the people involved in Thrillhouse to do the same as the last next big thing, and release a “banger”…which is code for “something that sounds a bit like Slade”. But it wouldn’t have been real. Instead they have decided to make something honest and pure, something with wit and style.
Enter the Thrillhouse.