There is a name for it: Bitbop — though we’d classify these songs as video game themes.
Some dance to it. We’d barely recognize the background beat from “Mortal Kombat Trilogy,” and then start discussing whether or not Sub-Zero could defeat Kintaro.
It’s closed the most renowned music festivals in Scandinavia — Roskilde in Denmark, Arvika in Sweden, Hove in Norway. Here, it would be frowned upon to even dare to listen to it in public, let alone confess to enjoying it.
Slagmålsklubben — Sweden’s most representative bitbop outfit — has managed to criticize popular society by satirizing the younger mainstream. Yes, the members of this band are using a synthesizer to make a social statement.
Wikipedia tells us that Slagsmålsklubben (or SMK for short — an attempt to internationalize the band for the non-Scandinavian public) was formed in 2000. The name literally means “The Fight Club,” an allusion to Chuck Palahniuk’s novel (evidently, the article was picked up somewhere along the way). Palahniuk’s is a story against consumerism and conformity, but upon first listen, SMK doesn’t evoke the same associations.
Essentially, both band and book propose the same conflict. Slagsmålsklubben, channeling Tyler Durden, fights against meaningless, superfluous music and the fact that people in Sweden seem to enjoy it. Let us not forget “Boten Anna,” by Basshunter. In response to vapid lyrics, SMK fights against superficial lifestyles, against empty minds and ignorance, against political indifference. Not only this, they have assembled electronic mixes that literally bend the mechanical sounds produced by a Commodore 64. Their music is played in nightclubs, stores and through most iPods in Sweden. Slagmålsklubben is a phenomenon that has taken the creation of Welle Erdball, their German bitbop forefather, to an entirely new level. And the most beautiful aspect of it is that they don’t have to use words at all.
I wasn’t really sure what to think after I first listened to “Kasta Sten.” It slightly reminded me of Kraftwerk and even Daft Punk, just without lyrics. Electronica was just a blur to me then, with all the synths and chords intertwined. I thought it was for people who liked funny sounds, or better, consecutive funny sounds. SMK was the closest I got to playing tetris again. So, where’s the social critique?
Never mind sounds that silence the skeptical audiences. There are music videos and concerts. Not in vain was I invited to watch the music video for “Malmö Night Beach Party,” with the apparent objective of enjoying SMK’s artwork. Slow as I am, I didn’t get the reference immediately. I didn’t understand what my Scandinavian friends were trying to show me. Finally, the crowd requested that I find the video to Erick Prydz’s “Call On Me.”
And I got it.