Sunday, April 11, 2010

Junior Boys Own Collection (Junior Boys Own)
Spin, 1994

by Simon Reynolds

The cover of this compilation of releases from one of London's hipper dance labels features a gallery of loveable rogues, including Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Patrick McNee (from 'The Avengers'), Mick Jagger, Pete Townsend and Phil
Daniels (star of 'Quadrophenia'). The last two are the giveaway, since the whole Junior Boy's Own ethos is a '90s update of mod. That '60s scene was about boys and their obsessions with the sharpest clothes, the obscurest dance singles and the pills that allowed them to skip sleep and spend the weekend dancing and posing.

London club culture today really isn't that much different from Mod. Ecstasy has replaced speed, but it's still a boy's own affair. Cultural studies hipsters use the term 'homosocial' to describe this kind of male bonding, which nicely captures the way that boys divert their passion for each other into shared obsessions like sport, music, motors et al. In fact, Junior Boy's Own origins stem from a
fanzine, Boy's Own, which combined two laddish passions--rave music and soccer.

Well, obsessiveness is the spice of pop life, up to a point and so long as it doesn't get too anal-retentive. And there's no denying that JBO's Terry Farley
and Steve Hall have managed to define and foster their own distinct club music aesthetic. Most of their releases are slanted towards smooth, sophisticated elegance. This is music for self-proclaimed connoiseurs that cuts a swathe
midway between the 'hands in the air!' euphoria of populist house and the frigid frenzy of trance techno.

The Collection ranges from bumpin' garage and tuff house to the pop techno of Underworld, who have since become rave/rock crossover stars with their excellent
Dubnobasswithmyheadman LP. It's worth buying this comp just for their hard-to-find track "Rez", a sublime roundelay of synth-tones that chase each others tails. The trouble with techno is that it's virtually impossible to say why one
oscillating sequencer-riff is sublime where another isn't (then again, it's equally hard to pinpoint what exactly it is that makes the riff to, say, "Smells Like Teen Spirit", so exciting). Underworld are also in fine form (as their alter-
ego Lemon Interrupt) with the throbbing and twinkling "Big Mouth". Other highlights include the runaway train rhythms of X Press-2's "Muzik X-Press" and "London X-Press" (the latter spirals off into mad sirens and hollers of "raise
your hands"--a police officer, a preacher, or just an MC?),and the Dust Brothers' thunderquaking hip hop "Song To The Siren" (which has absolutely nothing to do with Tim Buckley).

Nowadays, London's clubland is ruled by jungle, a ballistic blend of hip hop, dub and ragga that's ruffer, blacker and more ferociously experimental than the tasteful
but rather mild garage scene with which Junior Boy's Own are affiliated. And so "Collection" is an excellent summation of one particular strand of London dance culture, but one that's already history.

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