Not so very long ago, a new phrase started to appear in the music press, one that represented the resurgence of post-rave dance music specifically in London although it soon caught on as a genre specific description for the fast, tuneful and indeed danceable electronica that was emanating from the ultra hip basement clubs of those parts of the UKs capital whose postcodes start with the letter E and while the scene it sprang from has moved on apace since its initial heyday, bands like Civil Civic are continuing to push the boundaries of the sound, and making some fantastic and innovative music while they’re about it.
Calling their album Rules seems like something of a misomner, as in Civil Civic’s musical spectrum there aren’t actually very many of these. Surf guitars, metallic bass lines, crashing synths and evocative pop melodies collide in near overwhelming combinations, all instrumental and relentlessly energetic. Starting with “Airspray”, Civil Civic are making an anthemic, scuzzed up and very memorable bid for greatness, generating tones and rhythms that can hold their own alongside the likes of MGMT, The Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim and just about anyone I’ve ever heard producing this sort of electronica. “Street Trap” is a ferocious 140 bpm speed grind lifted by dazzling keyboard and guitar riffs. “Grey Nurse” (named, I’m supposing, after the shark) builds around its noirish surf guitar beginnings with a spiralling keyboard riff. “Sky Dream” most obviously references MGMT, with added power guitar and a tune that veers off into an extended improvisation that’s a trademark of Civil Civics sound and what makes Rules a consistently challenging listen. Not content with setting the sequencers to ‘repeat’ and instead developing their instrumentation to its limits, Civil Civic retain their melodic focus throughout and, combined with the radio friendly track length this makes for some near breathtaking displays of spaced-out warp speed electropunk.
What holds Rules together is the idea that, for all the competing and occasionally conflicting elements that go into it, the end result is a pop record, mainstream accessible and which could adapt itself to any format, not just the club scene that Civil Civic originate from. And while I’ve spent several hours deconstructing the music and identifying the actual sounds and influences which make it up, Rules doesn’t actually need listened to in overly critical depth. It’s fast, loud, tuneful and innovative, a soundtrack for the summer of 2012 as well as the skilfully constructed electronic composition it actually is.
watch the video for Airspray