A nu-rave mixtape

Does anyone else remember the days before streaming services? Before playlists? If you wanted to get someone into a certain band, or play them a selection of the artists you’d be watching live at the weekend, you couldn’t just drag every song they’d ever written into a playlist and send it to them over email. Nope. You really had to think about it, to distil that feeling you wanted to give them down into a few tough choices.

Tapes had two sides, both 45 minutes long. You had that long to say what you needed to say and then it was time to move on. We’re bringing that challenge back in our mixtape. 45 minutes to convince someone why they should like a certain band, artist, genre, or era.

Today, I have 45 minutes to tell you why you should love nu-rave. Here I go:

Cassius – Toop Toop (2:47)

“Wait, this isn’t nu-rave” you may be shouting at your screen. Well nu-rave wasn’t really a scene, more of a joke that got out of hand. A bunch of similar-ish, mostly British bands got lumped together by some writers and promoters. It was handy for them because it sounded like new wave. Execept it was ‘nu’ rather than ‘new’, because the noughties. Anyway, when French electro-house acts like Cassius started using guitars it’s arguably where it all began. I was the first guy playing Daft Punk to the rock kids, you know. So I shall begin by taking liberties, and continue to do so.

New Young Pony Club – The Bomb (4:19)

I have always loved New Young Pony Club. They were the perfect antidote to the glut of identikit guitar bands of the time and were here to give them a kick up the skinny jeans with a neon betrainered foot. They had this blasé too-cool-for-art-school thing going on. There was a keyboard. They weren’t all white men. I was very much in love with the awesome Tahita Bulmer. ‘The Bomb’ is very much the bomb of nu-rave. If you can only pick one from this tape to make me happy, please choose this.

Simian Mobile Disco – I Believe (3:19)

As the two worlds of clubbing and gigs collided around this time, nu-rave opened up my ears to a new world of electronic music. And Simian Mobile Disco couldn’t have timed it better, dropping their debut album in 2007, right in the middle of it all. That squelchy analogue sound and the fact that they had started as part of a band (the Simian of Simian v. Justice ‘We Are Your Friends’, another essential precursor to nu-rave), rather than as DJs, were the perfect ingredients to cook up a tasty journey that has carried on to this day. This was edgy on a dark and sticky indie-disco dancefloor back then. Now I play techno at lunchtime without batting an eyelid.

Chemical Brothers – All Rights Reversed (4:43)

The established dance music artists were also getting in on the act. Chemical Brothers released the zeitgeisty We Are the Night in 2007 too and bagged a feature from nu-rave poster boys Klaxons. It sure worked on me. I was never sure about the Chemical Brothers before this, but from then on I was hooked.

The Whip – Trash (6:24)

With it’s clubbing credentials, Manchester had to get involved too. And so came The Whip with their unfairly maligned album X Marks Destination. Set up as a fairly typical guitar band, they made music with the sound and song structure of dance bangers you would hear on the radio all the time. The builds were there, the drops were there, the simple repeated lyrics and riffs that sounded like samples were there. Fantastic live.

Klaxons – Two Receivers (4:18)

I’ve already introduced them as the poster boys for the scene. Remarkably carried by hype all the way to a Mercury win, they arguably peaked too soon. Myths of the Near Future hasn’t stood the test of time but this track remains one of the best openers of any album. The sheer doom of that crashing drumbeat at the start before the piano chords slam down. Shivers down the spine.

Late of the Pier – Space and The Woods (Cenzo Townshend Mix) (3:46)

The ‘second generation’ (i.e. very young and just about the only band to follow in the wake of nu-rave) was spearheaded by the absolute force that was Late of The Pier. Their brand of glitchier and more derivative MySpace rave-metal was pretty unique and not always an easy listen. Their fans were even younger than them – I’ve never had such a good view or short a wait at the bar as at a Late of The Pier gig. One storming album with Erol Alkan producing, then, DONE.

Digitalism – Pogo (3:46)

Another 2007 album that seemed right on the money. What Late of the Pier were to Klaxons, so Digitalism were to Daft Punk. Signed to Kitsuné, I even thought they were French. Trust the Europeans to add a bit of wistfulness and longing and elevate the sound of the time to something a little more intelligent.

CSS – Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death From Above (3:31)

Albeit from another album that hasn’t aged particularly well, this is still a tune, and an anthem of the genre.

Klaxons – Gravity’s Rainbow (Van She Remix) (5:23)

When bands were giving up entirely on original songs as B-sides then you know you’re in a golden era for the remix. It was also the golden era for illegal downloads so there weren’t any sides anyway. All the cool bands were hanging out with their new DJ friends backstage and this was the result. I was a little bit obsessed with the series of Modular Presents: and Kitsuné Maison and compilations (from which this remix was taken) and these two labels seemed massively influential in shaping the new sounds we were hearing. Soulwax remixed everything – you were a nobody if their version of your song wasn’t played at the end of the night.

Technotronic – Pump up the Jam (5:20)

Finishing as I began, with something entirely not nu-rave. The reason it’s on this mixtape? New Young Pony Club always used to play this live and the crowd would go nuts. I would include their version but it doesn’t exist on your favourite streaming service (check the YouTube videos though). One of the few times where so called nu-rave actually made reference back to the original age of rave with this dancefloor banger from 1989. All nu-rave fashion was based on visuals in the Technotronic video.

So perhaps less a nu-rave mixtape than “James’ ideal night out c. 2007”. I had the best time making it anyway and hope you enjoy it.

Words by James Spearing

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