Many bands like to think they know how to party. But there aint no party like a Shitdisco party. How many bands do you know who cart generators half a mile down disused railway tunnels, install light systems and play all night to half a city’s ravers? Who else plays lock-ins where you’re actually locked in by the bouncers? When did The Horrors last buy a caravan off eBay and build in a soundsystem because they’d been evicted from their flat for too many public order offences? We rest our case.
Glasgow’s Shitdisco (one of many invented terms coined by the ultra-inventive foursome) shot to fame last year playing and partying their way round the ‘turboraves’ of Europe, stunning even hardy Klaxons fans on the NME Rave tour in a fluoro frenzy that lasted all year and shot adrenalin into the dreariest of the last remaining schmindie fans.
Four post-art school boys raised on a diet of Talking Heads, The Prodigy, Girls Aloud, Donna Summer and anything in between (as long as it’s edging towards 2000 RPM), bassist Joe Reeves, other bassist Joel Stone, um, third bassist (and keyboard wizard) Jan Lee and drummer Darren Cullen came together as Shitdisco in 2003. From a disused tenement block in Glasgow’s now-gentrified West End, they eschewed the traditional gig scene (a wise move as Glasgow’s Sauciehall Street is, in the bands own words, “like Rome at the height of its decadence”) instead hosting massively over-subscribed free-for-all parties.
When they do play ‘traditional’ gigs, it’s rarely without an after-party. Their living room jams with Klaxons and The Rapture and the games of tourbus polo (don’t ask – it earnt drummer Darren a broken arm) became the stuff of legends. But there’s a more profound side to the band writ large all over debut album ‘Kingdom Of Fear’ that could be easily overlooked in the med-fuelled madness.
First single and schizoid disco-punk manifesto ‘Disco Blood‘, for example, with the hazily joyful chorus of “got that disco feeling on my mind, got it in my blood” seems pretty simple. In fact it’s a reference to the feeling AIDS sufferers felt when the disease first emerged. Look closely, and you’ll notice the band’s incessant partying is actually their political statement. Bassist Joe says of juggernaut follow-up track ‘Reactor Party‘: “it’s from the Russian concept of holding parties in nuclear reactors. It’s a vague political aspiration, having a party in a government funded place.”
This defiance is the centrifugal force in everything that Shitdisco do. “Playing party music for us is rooted in political ideas” says Joe, “We’re unable to change anything even by voting, so partying is a political statement. You don’t go to work or do what you’re supposed to be doing. You party for days on end instead.” So, futile trek to the polling station to push forward the next corruptive impotent government, or spend weeks on end off your tits – the choice is yours.
The rest of their steamroller debut is a hailstorm of gabba-punk disco diatribes, peppered with cult literary references. ‘3D Sex Show‘, all falsetto choruses crunching with diseased basslines – a sound that mirrors the characteristic clash of pop melodies and dark lyricism – stares terrified at the European sex industry. Michel Houllebecq’s quasi-sexual literature is a huge influence on Joel. ‘Fear Of The Future‘, meanwhile plays on Philip K Dick’s loathing of our increasingly technocratic society and its increasingly bizarre dictates (lamp-posts with x-ray machines anyone?).Their single biggest literary touchstone, however, is the great doctor of gonzo Hunter S. Thompson, another character living on the edge of sanity who shared their “distrust for this weird plastic society” (‘Kingdom Of Fear‘ was the title of Thompson’s final autobiography).
Something to chew (your gums) over during those 48 hour gurning sessions then. And that’s before we even get to the attempted terrorist bombing of the Ministry Of Sound in ‘72 Virgins‘.
This joy/terror dichotomy is played out in the constant struggle in the band’s sound between obtuse post-punk aggression and poptastic euphoria. As Joe puts it: “There’s things pulling our sounds in different directions. We love the studied precision of TV On The Radio. We have a pop approach with a retarded punk aspect too. Shitdisco is the best description of how it sounds, but this album shows there’s less shit now, it’s more like pop disco.”
Next step for the band? Try and guess. Nope, try again. No – we’ll have to tell you straight. Joe says they’re going to start up a girl group, like hi-NRG 80s poppers The Flirts, to “push the dark pop idea we’ve got”. Shitdisco: extreme turboravers, twisted disco-punk geniuses, and soon, pop svengalis the likes of which have never been seen.
Tim Chester, Febraury 2007