Rightly or wrongly, one of the most propagated romantic myths in this world is the relationship between dance music - spanning everything from greyscale techno to technicolour cosmic disco, via mutated industrial EBM and diabetes-inducing EDM - and vinyl. Regardless of technological evolutions, we still think of DJs as perma-headphoned people who value their Technics more than their friendships.
Once a week we're told that VINYL IS BACK and that EVERYONE LOVES VINYL AGAIN and that VINYL IS THE BEST FUCKING THING EVER even though buying a new album on vinyl is an affectation on par with buying a unicycle or a copy of The Idler but who cares because VINYL IS BACK EVERYONE. So it came as no surprise when yesterday saw the birth of the Official Vinyl Singles Chart Top 40, a new addition to the three hundred official charts that emerge to less and less fanfare as the Sundays (or now Fridays) go on inexorably into the future.
This latest emergence of a variation of interpreting the quality of artistic output through analysing how many people deem it worthy of purchase is interesting because, sadly, it tells us that the vinyl market isn't the stronghold of techno 12"s that we'd like to think of it as. Impressively, UK oldboys Underworld's partnership with Heller & Farley is at No.1, but while we didn't realistically expect to see Raime singles bothering the upper reaches there's still a pretty disconcerting lack of 4/4 in the all important first top 40.
Instead, what we've got is a horribly accurate look at the vinyl market at large. A pointless reissue of "Rebel Rebel" by David Bowie sits next to a presumably pointless new single by Pete Doherty, which we haven't listened to because listening to a new Pete Doherty single in 2015 is probably as pleasurable as pubic shaving with sandpaper. A Metallica song called "Lords of Summer" is sat at No.34, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds make not one, not two, but three appearances and the Brian Jonestown Massacre seem to still exist. This is a chart borne of a virulent blend of rockist nostalgia from dads with disposable income and lads with feathercuts and pocket money in thrall to the notion of "proper music." In the world of this vinyl chart, Mojo is a tastemaker rather than a cultural coffin. This is Cameron's Britain writ large in overpriced black plastic: dismal, scared, backwards-looking and about as invigorating as a three year old bath bomb. Fucking Lulu makes it to no.5 for Christ's sake.
This isn't necessarily unexpected. I remember buying terrible indie 7"s in Virgin Megastore as an impressionable twelve year old, dropping an extra 50p here and there for an exclusive Evening Session version of a Datsuns track or whatever before I realized that listening to bands was a bit rubbish. The dance market, largely, has always and will always existed slightly outside the shadow of the mainstream, give or take the three or four summer smashes that hop from sweatboxes to the Scott Mills show every year. The vinyl-only DJ and punter still exists and shops like London's Kristina and Phonica have devoted buyers ready to drop crisp tenners on limited run 12"s on labels that don't have, want, or need the kind of marketing heft the majors do.
Essentially, charts like these are, largely, irrelevant to anyone with genuine interest in a specific field of music. The kind of dance track that sneaks into the top five of the 'overall' charts isn't likely to be one that gets played out in the clubs where club culture actually thrives. This isn't me passing a value judgement on the worth of those records or implying that they don't count as 'actual' dance music, but rather pointing out the gulf between the critically credible and commercially viable. Most of us forgo the charts when we reach fifteen or so. It seems that this new, fancy, vinyl-only one has decided to pretty much forego dance music entirely.