The life and death of a genre
By Princess Stomper
Industrial music was always about articulating fear, but no hellish prediction of the future could have foretold this.
There were always old punks lurking at the local, or skulking in the nightclub, and we thought they were OK. Punk was old and dead, and the few wrinkly remainders trying to hit on women or men half their ages were smiled at like old WWII veterans. They might be a little out-of-place, perhaps a little embarrassing, but we wouldn’t have been here if it wasn’t for them, so there was a reverence there. We respected our elders. Nearly 20 years later, I see how young people today regard my own clubbing years. On Buzzfeed, a meme is going viral where fans are taking some footage of some terribly earnest-looking industrial fans dancing and overdubbing the music with ever more ridiculous novelty hits, with even more mischief to be found on Reddit. These fans are a laughing stock – and rightly so, because they are ridiculous.
What turns it from pathetic to outright upsetting is how little resemblance either the people or the music bears to the genre I loved with such a passion. It’s painful watching something you love die. Even when I was young, the old guard complained that Nine Inch Nails weren’t “real industrial”, and we smiled because things have to evolve and grow. But now there’s no trace of anything that ever made us love it in the first place. It hasn’t just evolved, it’s an entirely separate species, and it needs to be put out of its misery.
The term “industrial” was originally coined in the 70s, with Industrial Records, and a sound invented to evoke the urban hell of factories. It sounded a bit like this. (Which is to say, fucking dreadful.) [Arrrrrgghhhh! You die for saying this, Princess Stomper! You die for this! – absolutely affronted Ed]
Still, we have the basic invention: aggressive vocals, early synths, fierce beats. Electronic punk, basically. The Germans, with characteristic efficiency, soon figured out that if you bang rhythmically on bits of metal, you can maintain that factory-floor coldness and sense of alienation, but having a bit of a tune won’t actually kill you.