I Created Disco
passed my mate the headphones and asked him to listen to the song, anonymously. "It's a bit like LCD Soundsystem," he perked up, nodding his head, and it is a bit. "It's a wee bit like Felix Da Housecat, all that Electro, eh..." "Electroclash?" I offered—"aye, that's it. I mean, it's alright. Who is it?" He was being cautious, and so was I. He didn't know whether to smile or scoff, until three minutes in when he recognized the vocals—he grabbed at his ears and threw the headphones off across the room. "It's that fucking cunt Calvin Harris, int it?" Then he turned to me. "You're a fucking dick!," he said, and then smiled, realizing he'd been caught—caught slightly appreciating Calvin Harris! Oh, for shame!
We pondered what it was that caused such an angry reaction. It's the way he's been marketed, perhaps, that he seems so full of himself. His album is preposterously titled, but surely we all know it is a joke? Or perhaps some of that imagined arrogance lingers, and is then amplified by the hook of his new single, which boasts "I get all the girls, I get all the girls!"? Maybe it's partly because he apes James Murphy, but comes off worse for not being as clever or as funny? And possibly—probably—it's because his first single ("Acceptable in the 80s") was ruined by over-exposure, and his second single ("The Girls") was already a ruin before it was over-exposed?
These are all standard bases upon which pre-conceptions are built, and very often they don't need re-evaluating—we rarely feel we need to devote several careful listens to a whole album before we lay into the latest shitty band to dominate the radio airwaves. But Calvin Harris does not deserve the vitriol that has been sent his way. I Created Disco is a fun and mostly very listenable pop record which satisfies the modest ambitions it sets for itself.
To be more precise: there are no complex rhythms, no extended build-ups or big releases; the melodies are not narrow, or multi-layered, or even in need of repeated listens; it's not innovative or new, or thrilling, or intelligent. It's all done within pop structures, where a funky synth bassline is underlined by beats to strike-a-pose to, laced with metallic synth stabs, and topped off by a simple vocal about drugs, and perhaps a falsetto too. Sometimes the bass synths will bulge, and the silver synths will shimmer, and the lines will be about sex, but it all adds to the same. The appeal is always quick to show, and quick to wear off. It's catchy. And totally disposable. Calvin Harris created this kind of disco specifically for student club nights, not for grumbling men in chairs with expensive stereos. And although he's been compared to Mylo and LCD, his impact may actually be more analogous to that of fellow Scots Franz Ferdinand.
The indie-rock cognoscenti struggled (and still struggles) to accept Franz. Their debut album was full of light-hearted, hook-laden singles, derivative and stylish. But the pop fans sensed a good time and embraced it, mocking the po-faced cross-armed worry-worts who refused to dance. I Created Disco is similar, but this time the electro-heads are the ones being challenged. Eh. Who cares? It's just music for girls to dance to, and that's a more-than-valid end for any pop record.
Reviewed by: Ally Brown
Reviewed on: 2007-06-29