Not Here To Please You
They’re the neon-splattered sound of 2037!” screams the red corner! “They’re a bunch of try-hard Hoxton scenesters!” retaliates the blue corner! “They’re leaders of the genre-pulping grindie-pop scene!” rages the, umm, green corner. “They’re grime-aping rip-off merchants!” yells the beige with pink spots corner.
And so on and so on went the NME office debate over Hadouken! this summer, a row so fiery it threatened to make everything from The Beatles Vs the Stones to the 1943 allied invasion of Sicily look tame by comparison. Funny, really, because such a ping-ponging collision of arguments is exactly the kind of thing Hadouken! – a band whose recorded output sounds like every decent genre of the last decade yelling loudly over the top of each other – get off on. But, really, this wasn’t an argument about an indie band. It was generational warfare, a scrap between those who saw Hadouken! as symbolising everything that represents the new, youthful indie scene in 2007 (DIY principals, retina-scarring clothes, a list of pick’n’mix influences that stretches beyond The Libertines, fans hell-bent on picking up serious moshpit injuries) and those who just can’t handle the idea of an indie band who sound nothing like The Raconteurs.
Fact is, Hadouken! get a thrill out of upsetting folk. This mixtape (only available on USB memory stick, yet another cheeky V sign flicked in the direction of The Oldies) is stocked full of everything their haters despise. A kind of taster course before their debut album proper lands next year, it’s tinny, it’s fast, it’s shouty and it rebounds off in weird directions at the end of every verse. It’ll drive anyone over the age of 21 to the edge of a nervous breakdown within 15 minutes. We should know, we’re writing this from The Priory.
Clearly, Hadouken! don’t need a full-length album to announce that they want to rip things up. Everything that makes these five fluorescent adolescents such a merry migraine of ideas is squished together here in the time it takes for Johnny Borrell to perform one of his live “beat-poetry” work-outs at the end of In The City (that’s 35 minutes, to be precise). They speed through a whopping 11 tunes in that time, with zero gasps for oxygen in between and countless attempts to mess with the rules of a band’s first big release, weaving weird things into the digital tapestry simply because they can. So at the three-minute mark, don’t be surprised when a stomping Space Invaders-style reworking of Bloc Party’s ‘The Prayer’ pops up. And try not to be too shit-scared when Plan B starts yelling “No more eating for you now!” at 16 minutes 21.
But it’s their own tracks that provide the biggest thrills. Starting off with the wailing alarm sirens of ‘Bounce’, it swerves through the Prodigy-esque ‘Liquid Lives’ and ends up gurning through ‘Love, Sweat & Beer’, a tune far closer to
the essence of warehouse raves than anything on ‘Myths Of The Near Future’.
The whole argument about Hadouken! ripping off grime looks faintly ridiculous now. The grime influence sits aside so many other genres that Hadouken! position themselves as prime pop magpies rather than rip-off merchants. Take ‘Leap Of Faith’, which they describe as “our attempt at a post-hardcore track”. The results sound like Rage Against The CBeebies. It’s fun, but by attempting to deal with social issues (teenage pregnancies, council flats etc) it ends up being one of the weakest tracks here. There are bands who should be tackling hard issues but neon-splattered Hadouken! ain’t one of them. Besides, the lyrics to ‘Girls’ (which makes jokes about self-harming) and ‘Tuning In’ (“I can’t help staring at her rack”) prove that their politics are still a little wonky.
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Far better for them to concentrate on the things that make them so lovable, from the battery-operated beats to the scenester-savaging shout-outs. Because in many ways, this is their manifesto delivered to its naturally noisy conclusion: a flawed but ultimately ace missive from Generation MySpace. Far from a stop-gap release, this could well end up being regarded as the ultimate Hadouken! document. For whereas bands releasing mixtapes can be viewed as a cynical cash-in, in this case it’s the perfect medium.
“But will it really be regarded by rock historians as an important record in 10 years’ time?” ask their crusty detractors between sups of real ale. The answer is “who cares?” This is a record for now, that could only have ever been made in 2007. Want to know what it feels like to be young, enthusiastic and bursting at the cranium with sonic ideas? Here’s your answer. Play The White Stripes’ latest record after this and it’ll sound like the most dismal load of bluesy retro ape-wank you’ve ever heard. This is a good thing – a thrilling sign that the times are both a-changing and a-raving.