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Monday, September 01, 2003
I really want to write something about the JC Chavez / Basement Jaxx song "Plug It In," but I'm a bit unsure what I can say beyond what Ned at NYLPM already did. Still, lemme give it a shot.

First thing would be: holy dear sweet Jesus, this is a good song. (And it makes me want to listen to "Red Alert" again, surely the best pirate-themed French house song of all time.) So you should definitely go listen to it if you haven't yet.

What I think I like best about it, conceptually, is the way it perfectly marries the styles of the two parties involved and then adds something that sounds perfectly logical yet unprecedented. What JC's working is undeniably a boy-band thing, although it's unsure if I think that because of its relation to N*Sync songs or its relation to Justin's established solo stuff--there's a definite parallel, melody-wise, to "Like I Love You," especially in the initial verse bit. And there's some simply trademark Basement Jaxx stuff there, especially the high-res synth bit that comes at the end of the bar and the bassline (although honestly, Ned, the drums are pretty Neptunes-y--listen to that snare sample). Even littler bits like the scream and the driving vibe of the track seem like what you'd "expect" from BJ, even if you wouldn't expect anything quite this mind-blowingly good after Rooty.

But then what's interesting is the way this certain logic leads into the totally weird stuff, specifically the chorus. So the rhythms there sound like what you're used to from Remedy, but the guitars, and the vocals--what the hell is going on there? At the risk of offending some of more electronic-music-savvy readers, I'll suggest this is actually an electroclash influence; while there's the hint of the diva-ish vocals of "Red Alert" here, the female vocals are definitely off-tune enough (check the way the notes wander where they will on "in") to sound like Peaches to my ears, and that's definitely a guitar sound, albeit doubled with a ravey synth. So it makes no sense, logically speaking, from a Basement Jaxx standpoint, and it sure as fuck makes no sense in the boyband context; it would have actually been pretty nice to hear a BSB chorus as wonderfully yelly as this one. And yet it does make sense, because it totally follows from the groove established in the verse. And that's the brilliance of it. It takes a hook that's driving the song, making it immensely dancey without actually standing out as something demanding melodic appreciation (so to speak) and fucking emphasizes it, piles everything around it, and makes it into a goddamn fist-pumping dance-your-ass-off little break. For all the talk of dance "anthems," this is an actual anthem in the sense that you can get drunk and sing along to it.

So it's not just that this is a good song, it's that it suggests new possibilities, both for the presumably marginalized genres of electroclash and French house, but for mainstream hyperpop, and that's way exciting. But beyond the fact that I'd love to see the Swedes (random observation: is it just me, or do American audiences seem less knee-jerkingly hostile to artists produced by American teams like the Neptunes or the Matrix than they were to the Swedes of BSB/Britney/etc.?) pick up on this stuff and bring their game up to the Neptunes level, I'd love to see any of the bands that currently (or in the future) digging on The Rapture listen to this stuff and see what you can do with the kind of rock-dance groove they're working. Just as the Rapture can do things like meld noise-rock and dance-pop and make it sound like the kind of detuned, chordally ignorant stuff you hear in real good vocal dance stuff (Green Velvet, say), so can this meld the pretty damn intricate, soul-influenced melodies of boybands and slab it to a sort of heightened electroclash. It's also way joycore in its massive pileup of hooks, but that's another point entirely.

UPDATE: Fluxblog posts the song and says a nice thing about this here post. So now you have no excuse for not listening. Unless you are on a dial-up connection. Or, um, are deaf.