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Will 2010 bring yet more musical nostalgia

Posted 19 Jan 2010 by The Arts Desk

Much like any other year 2010 is set to be filled with some great and innovative music which naturally has been influenced by the past. Music writer Joe Muggs talks us through the roots of current trends.

Pop and underground culture alike are always in a state of simultaneously looking forward and back - re-assessing the past and anticipating the future in order to create the present. But in difficult present with uncertain future, the past will always seem the more comforting part of the equation: so during times of economic hardship it's no surprise that people return again and again to the familiar.

Sometimes this is simply the obvious cosy nostalgia we'd expect: the gentle 50s rock'n'roll of the 'Dreamboats And Petticoats' phenomenon continues to steamroller around the country, now in stage musical form, and one of the music industry's biggest, if least-hyped, success stories of the 2009 Christmas season was the 'Words For You' album, featuring the reassuring tones of national treasures Joanna Lumley, Alison Steadman, Geoffrey Palmer, Martin Shaw and co reading well-loved poems over classical backing.

But people can get nostalgic for peculiar things in peculiar ways, too, and one of the oddest manifestations of the current economic hard times has been a wistful looking back to previous times of high unemployment. Take Gallows' 'Grey Britain' album - a huge hit in the indie world of the NME, and the sort of grim-faced agit-punk we haven't seen since the heyday of bands protesting against "MRS FATCHAH", so despite its seriousness and anger, it can't help feeling like a period piece. A more knowing nod to 1980s anti-Thatcher protests comes in the surreal video for Dizzee Rascal's 'Dirty Cash (Money Talks)' - a reworking of the 1988 Adventures Of Stevie V hit - which features grotesque Margaret Thatcher masks and even obliquely references the Poll Tax riots.

2009 was also the year when the early 1980s revivalism that has been brewing all decade - ever since the days of Electroclash - finally realised its potential, with the stark OMD/Eurythmics/Yazoo electro of La Roux dominating the charts, the introspective Cure/New Order-isms of The xx, Friendly Fires and co sweeping the indie world, and even the world-bestriding pop of Lady Gaga and Rihanna taking its cues from the cold futurism of 80s electropop. Underground dance music, too, looked back, with the House Of House providing one of the most enduring club tracks of the year, and Belgium's Aeroplane and Norway's Lindstrom & Christabelle both making ultra-credible takes on 80s pop.

Amazingly, though, perhaps the most interesting revival of the year looked back only as far as the late 1990s. UK garage was always a sound that felt like it had unfinished business, having petered out dramatically in the early 2000s, so it's been wonderful to see it coming back, via both the more exploratory corners of the dubstep scene, and via the new pirate radio sound of "UK Funky". New producers like Brackles, Shortstuff, Pangaea, 2562 and Martyn have all created balmy electronic takes on the hip-swinging groove of garage, while originals from the scene including MJ Cole, Zed Bias, El-B, Noodles and Heartless Crew all finding themselves suddenly highly in demand again. Dubstep figurehead Skream's wonderful remix of Bat For Lashes, and The xx's remix of Florence & The Machine both showed how much pop potential the sound has, and it cannot be long before the garage revival gives us a bona fide hit.

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