I’m not a big fan of Skrillex. That’s okay, I’m not supposed to. The dude is about as popular with music journalists as skin cancer…racist skin cancer…racist skin cancer that said bad things about Tom Waits once at an Olive Garden. But lately there have been pieces in (quasi) support of the poster child for “brostep”. Daphne Carr wrote a fantastic piece about how chalky skin/cracker dreads may actually be the punkiest thing going, which you’re now reading because you clicked on the hyperlink (I’m guessing).
Skrillex is a bit weird because he is a reminder that I’m old. In my brain, dubstep hysteria is the new electronica hysteria. In the late 90s, it was The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers that had come to destroy rock n’ roll and ultimately turn Guitar Center outlets to dust (they didn’t). Now it’s a post-hardcore refugee and his crafty bass drops sent from “popular demand” to accomplish that task (he won’t).
Dubstep hasn’t really been my thing. I enjoy some of the output (NME went on a multi-year campaign of “MAGNETIC MAN IS YOUR NEW GOD NOW”, so I’ve checked in on the genre but it hasn’t acquired much space in my iPod) and I’m not fundamentally opposed to dubstep, but it just hasn’t caught my fancy.
I checked in on Skrillex and was underwhelmed. Of course, working with The Doors gives me an immediate “oh fuck off” bristle. (The Doors have always been terrible. Knock it off, all living and dead members of that group.) I also wasn’t particularly nutty about his work on Korn’s new album, but I don’t think production is really the issue I’ve had with the quality of Korn albums. I checked out a run of Skrillex singles too. They didn’t click with me, either. Then “Bangarang” happened.
"Bangarang" is the only Skrillex song I’ve enjoyed, but to me it reveals the appeal of Sonny John Moore. "Bangarang" is this thudding thrilling wall of Cherry Blaster sugardust noise. It sounds like the soundtrack to a party exclusively attended by characters from Super Street Fighter II. It’s not an intricate work rewarding the patience of the listener, it’s just music whose DNA is big, dumb and full of strobe lights. For just one track, I get it. Skrillex isn’t some sort of dance music auteur, he’s more like a scientist that’s crafted a new invention but did so by making the invention exceedingly dangerous to use. Smarter and more sophisticated electronic artists could do more drops and just be like “go go go”, but they just never bothered to do it. It’s kinda like doing that would be beneath them. Skrillex is the other way with that, he embraces the pseudo-LCD element of whipping up an audience. He taps into that with the gloriously bratty and impatient “now now now” quality of “Bangarang”.
After a half dozen listens, “Bangarang” loses its sugar high thrill. It’s a piece of music built for visceral reaction rather than studied contemplation, so I ended up feeling burnt out on it quite quickly. I tried to find that high again in Skrillex’s other stuff, but it just never happened. But for one song, I felt like I kind of got why people are into this guy. And in turn, I feel I like figured out why other folks want nothing to do with him.