The idea that ‘history repeats itself’ is a vagary that has always irritated me. Often used as a justification for trite comparisons, I think it’s a lazy way of looking at things. And yet, in the musical world, genre repetition seems to be an awfully regular occurrence. There are always going to be bands that sound like they should have formed in certain eras, but in more recent years the alternative musical scene has almost made it its job to attempt to recreate times past. Whether it was the synthy 80s resurgence of the late 00’s, the 60s vibes of last year, or the currently en vogue 90s throwbacks, it seems as if most modern musical/fashionable trends have circulated around the idea of imitation. It says some rather interesting things about our own culture that the more creative of us tend to find inspiration from previous decades. Is it because the widespread proliferation of technology and a burgeoning DIY culture has made new art incredibly prolific, hugely varied, extremely accessible, and therefore much less homogenous? Or does it in fact suggest the rather more depressing idea, that modern pop culture is so stagnant and commercial that we’re actually laying nothing of worth down for posterity?
From the title of their album, it seems that Disclosure don’t mind settling for one or the other. You see the problem with my earlier analysis is that it’s a bit of a vicious circle. Disclosure started out with good intentions; remedying the electronic dance music scene’s bro-step glut with some good old fashioned funky garage beats. That earlier work and their freshness placed them in my ‘variety’ category to begin with, but rather perplexingly so, improving as an act has made them less exciting. Everybody has a hint of ‘hipster arrogance’; wanting to hold on to smaller bands for themselves before they go big, but in Disclosure’s case, the commercialism as a result of releasing Settle has already gone some way to ‘ruining’ them. Maybe it’s a problem endemic to electronic music, but it seems as soon as something comes along that makes you want to rip out the boot of your car and fill it with shed loads of scrappily wired subwoofers (meant as the best possible compliment), some shitty advertising campaign will some along and take the music out of the venues and into the boardroom. Someone in an online review surmises that “Disclosuremania is about to sweep the nation.” Quite why that statement was meant as a positive continues to baffle me. Sure, they’ll have their time in the sun, but unlike the Beatles, and I’m sure I’m not bursting any bubbles saying this, Disclosure aren’t going to be around for much longer. And it’s a shame, because Settle is as un-guilty a guilty pleasure as I could imagine.
An almost-perfect banger of a record (only the ‘morning-after-the-night-before’ closer ‘Help Me Lose My Mind’ being a slight disappointment) neo-garage, or whatever you want to label it, has never sounded so good. The charm of Guy and Howard’s debut is undoubtedly aided by their stellar list of vocalists, but even with the ‘featurings’ aside, the floor-filling beats are devilishly enticing. At fourteen tracks long and just over an hour, it’s long for an album of its kind, but Settle is not for focussed listening, it’s an album to lose your inhibitions to. Lead singles ‘Latch’, ‘White Noise’ and ‘You & Me’ are in fine company, with even filler-sounding cuts like ‘Second Chance’ and ‘Grab Her’ holding their own. For what it is, it’s probably as faultless a debut as you could hope for. Disclosure’s music isn’t especially clever, but the reason it’s so damn listenable stems from its shamelessness. Settle isn’t an attempt to a wheel a 90’s-garage cash cow into the modern era; it’s a new album full of electronic music that Guy and Howard enjoy playing. And sure there’ll probably be a hefty pay-out as a result of all the radio plays and the night club royalties, but it’s a great record, so they probably deserve it.
By Alex Throssell
Dance Yrself Clean