Back in lockdown boredom, I landed on a TikTok video of a dejected looking young man staring at a screen, captioned “when your sat in some random kitchen at 6am wishing you went home in your friends 2am taxi”. Featuring space level eyes and put-on chemical despondency, the clip exhibited Gen Z’s proclivity to party hard (and to meme about it).
Then came the music.
Pumping through the speakers was “Glue” – a fiend-friendly 2017 single from Belfast electronic duo Bicep that embodies the excess and introspection of doing gear in a stranger’s kitchen until sunrise.
If you haven’t heard “Glue” – or simply need a reminder after too many nights on the dizz – its warm synth chords float in the space between euphoria and melancholy. The stop-start breakbeat groove never quite resolves itself, suggesting a crescendo that never quite comes. The best way to sum up its duality is a bewildered young man in a festival crowd searching desperately for his mates as people wait for the blissful beat drop.
TikTok – or sesh tok – is rife with similar clips of sapped-out teens mimicking sesh effects with “Glue” as a backing track. There are plenty of vids featuring that same stuttering synth loop repeating. One TikTok compares “Glue” to "the feeling when you leave a concert", another says "the vibe is immaculate". Others are more angst-ridden, regretting "another weekend of partying with people who don't really care about you". One even states that the “sound is what heartbreak feels like".
“Glue” is too restrained to be called a "banger", although it goes down pretty well at festivals. DJ Mag named it the best track of 2017, with Mixmag placing it second. It’s also been described as "wonderwall for people who like ketamine", which helps explain how “Glue” has ended up as the go-to soundtrack for teens heading out for a night on the pills.
But an iconic tune doesn't always equal a viral TikTok meme. How and why did a tune from 2017 (pretty much an old classic in the fast-moving world of electronic music) resonate so hard with Gen Z three years after its release?
Bicep are perplexed about its rise, with member Matt McBriar telling me, "The first year we were playing ‘Glue’, it was just getting nothing. I don't think we even played it in our live show originally. There wasn't a big reaction whatsoever.” I mention the TikTok vids of teens impersonating the vibe of the after-party. “We couldn't believe it when we started seeing all these comments!"
Andy Ferguson, who makes up the duo, shares his DJ mate’s surprise. "It's kind of mad that ‘Glue’ keeps popping up. When we used to play it live, people would stop dancing."
The official video is rammed with wistful comments from party folk too, as they look back on days of raving that seem long gone in the COVID era. Directed by Joe Wilson, it intercuts footage of still, empty sites of past raves with blocks of text from departed ravers. It’s a bittersweet ache of pure nostalgia and it's no wonder the shots of once-crowded spaces evoke emotion. As Andy says, "you could do a 2020 version where you just go around and film everywhere!" Matt notices how "it seems to have been viewed differently this year.
For Aiden, 18, "Glue" is the soundtrack to "getting ready for raves and parties. (Hearing it now) I just remember that time, and I forget my problems and worries for the night." The nights he remembers include when “we went to a house party in Ramsgate and ended up in a house in Canterbury listening to this track. No-one knew whose house it was, and we never found out."
Cameron, 18, says it brings back "falling down the stairs at a rave on Dartmoor. It was the best time of my life (so far)". Alex, 21, "listened to Glue at 5am sunrise at Hideout Festival. It was probably the best moment of my life." These quotes could fit in seamlessly with those from the middle-aged former ravers whose comments form the video.
It seems the nostalgia of experiencing music with friends – whether at a huge festival or in a grubby kitchen – is the main reason for the track’s resurgence. "I think that's why it's come back, this one, because a lot of people maybe found this tune as a collective,” Andy agrees. “Now they're in isolation and they listen to it again, it's more introspective. People have more time to think about what they're missing. Even simple things like going to the pub for a casual pint."
Lockdown and the pandemic have left today's generation of teens uncertain of the future and already feeling nostalgic for mere months ago. Georgia, 18, finds "Glue" a source of comfort that soothes anxiety: "It just makes me feel alive and carefree, makes everything disappear. When I listen to it, I'm in that moment, like time's stopped."
"I think people naturally struggle to be fully present, especially nowadays," Matt says. The boys themselves are looking more to the future than the past, with their second album Isles recently announced, alongside a series of tour dates planned for 2021. Whether we’ll be hearing tracks like new single "Apricots" at home through headphones or across muddy fields packed with newly-released teenage ravers, we’re sure to be listening.