Euphoria, History, Tragedy, Farce: A reduced history of stupid dance music

There's a theory that at the start of any new genre of dance music there are a lot of female vocals in the music because:

1) Female vocals signify female friendliness. This attracts a mixed crowd, which makes the nights more fun because people can get off with each other which is what dance music is (mainly) about.

2) Female vocals signify euphoria. Obviously different vocalists can do different things, but the general rule is that at the start of the creation of a new genre, a female vocal will be all warbly held notes and eye-rolling transcendence.

Then I the scene develops in different ways, some more serious and progressive, some dumber and more populist. I guess I'm calling this 'History' as this is when a scene will be most recognised as culturally meaningful. It will influence pop music, and possibly have crossover hits.

Then, history repeats itself.

First as tragedy. the music is mournful, or regretful, or angry (see: loads of angry jungle and drum and bass, The Eternal Sadness of the Post-Dubstep Scene, mournful house, the-bit-in-garage-before-people-properly-started-doing-grime). It knows that the real history of the scene is over, and it can only mourn. Imagine what sort of music you'd hear at a drum and bass rave in the late 90s. You're stoned and on loads of smacky pills while everyone else is listening to uk garage and drinking champagne and having loads of sex. Tragic.

And then as farce. Which I guess is when a scene jumps the shark and becomes sort of unintentionally hilarious to everyone who doesn't listen to it. (see: brostep for dubstep, the end of drum and bass for jungle, happy hardcore for all of dance music ever [though, actually, if you ever watched the weird videos you got with drum and bass tape packs, it always looked like everyone was going to the happy hardcore room and having the best time ever], lots of types of scally-house, donk etc., for techno and house). This happens when the music has already been completely abstracted from its scene: geographical and ideological. Perhaps the drugs aren't any good either. Or non-drug takers are listening to it.


I was thinking about those bits of dance music where it acts out of character. Where dance music reflects on its history as that history progresses. It is most obvious when it is humorous, because dance music isn't normally humorous on purpose, but normally just at the end of that progression from euphoria to farce. And even then it doesn't know its funny. In fact, Skrillex's dedication to music, and the seriousness with which he makes it, is heartbreakingly funny (see: Skrillex posting his favourite song of all time [Aphex Twin's beautiful Flim] and his fans' reactions to it).

I was reading Stewart Lee's book How I Escaped My Certain Fate and he writes about the possibility of a comedy without language (he's quoting someone else, maybe Malcom Hardee), just noises and movements that invoke humour. That got me thinking about all the songs from my misspent youth as a drum and bass listening teenager that were funny somehow.

Sometimes there might be a very conscious attempt at humour - a sample from a film, or a maybe a re-mixed theme tune, and obviously a few novelty raps don't go amiss, but some tracks were just funny via the sound or the feeling of the record. Here's a short selection of songs I remember and songs other people have recommended.

Ray Keith - Chopper Tune. Probably the king of stupid drum and bass tunes. It has a sample of a helicopter, an air hostess saying 'We're now ready for take off' and a portamento bass line.

Andy C - Bodyrock. A swing time drum and bass tune. I hated this when it came out and still do. It started a whole trend of swung drum and bass and it was awful. But it was an unexpected direction for a scene that was, by that time, populated by very predictable music.

Aphrodite - Superman. Pretty obvious really, but really triumphant and stupid. Imagine coming up on pills to this.

Oxide and Neutrino - Bound 4 Da Reload. It has a sample from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and  the music is based around the theme from the TV show Casualty. I remember watching it on Top of the Pops and being totally horrified but now I'm quite a fan of this as a late-garage/pre-grime classic with a really nice sense of geography. If your song samples prime time UK medical drama, you probably aren't looking to break America or whatever.

Donae'O - My Philosophy (Bounce). I'm kind of obsessed with this song. I found it while buying some classic UK garage and I kept playing it over and over. It has weird comedy-moral lyrics ('Don't do guns, don't do drugs, just have sex... Protected!'), its bassline is massive but also sounds really stupid. And it has someone pretending to be a frog saying 'Widdit' in the background.

Funky Dee - Are You Gonna Bang Doe. A funky/grime tune with lyrics which do that thing that grime lyrics do where every line ends with the same thing. In this case it's 'Are you gonna bang though?'. Funky Dee is kind of taking the piss out of it (when I first heard grime I just thought the MCs had got confused about what rhyming was), but he's also testing its limits in the safe environment of the comedy song. It has the same weird sample all the way through and he just messes about over the top. Obviously meant for a holiday crowd in napa who will just shout along and then definitely bang, though.

Whistle - Just Buggin. A quick detour into hip-hop, I actually wanted the Spoonie Gee version of this song, which has the same mad keyboard sample, but also has a comedy narrative rap about a girl who smokes too much weed. That is kind of a genre of its own: comedy-narrative rap w/ humorous music.

D.A.V.E the Drummer & Chris Liberator - One Night in Hackney. This is sort of like a farcical techno version of the hip-hop comedy narrative where someone talks about a really good/really bad night out in Hackney. It sounds stupid now, but when I was a bit younger this song made me feel really scared about raves and drugs. There's a brilliant bit at 4:26 where he improvises the line '15 cans of Stella' and then everyone in the recording booth laughs and then they all chant '15 Cans of Stella'. Also, I've only just realised that the title is a joke on One Night in Heaven.

Robbie T - Mrs. Jones 4x4 mix. This is a very popular remix idea, where the actual song plays for a bit (normally a "classic" bit of soul or pop) and then the remix drops in and everyone listening to it sort of has to acknowledge it as a bit clever and silly and fun. These are also the most annoying songs in the world if you don't like them, because while they are popular they are guaranteed to be played at every night you go to.

Hudson Mohawke - Thunder Bay. Someone suggested another Hudson Mohawke tune but a lot of this music is sort of funny and Thunder Bay is just so brilliant and up front and stupid. It sounds like a theme tune to the best Saturday night program ever.

EPROM - Regis Chillbin (Machinedrum Remix). Amazing suggestion of a recent piece of music. Its serious funny, if that makes sense. It's a very heavy, well produced tune, but with loads of dog barks doing the melody. And then at the end the dog barks turn into a baby crying.

Any suggestions?


Ok, here are some more from people. I'll update this every now and again...

Jamie Jones - 911. The normally dry world of minimal/tech house is livened up with a pretty lol 911 call. Apparently the call was actually made by a policeman who subsequently lost his job.

Marc Houle - Techno Vocals. Self referential techno record: "why are all the vocals pitched down so low, this is the way we make techno." Actually a really good tune as well as being absurd.

Mr. Oizo - Flatbeat. Someone suggested "Anything by Mr. Oizo", so I picked the famous one. But it's a good point, all his songs are pretty tongue in cheek, as was a lot of French of the 2000s. All the Ed Banger records stuff was knowingly dumb - an invitation to unpretentious fun.