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RETROSPECTIVE: Pendulum - Hold Your Colour

RETROSPECTIVE: Pendulum – Hold Your Colour
Jack Smith

Where to start on the delicate matter that is Pendulum’s rather controversial rise to mega-stardom… Kanye West’s impromptu stage crash at the 2009 VMA Awards springs to mind. Pissing on their own bonfire perhaps another analogy we could use after effectively jumping ship and in the process burning many an effortlessly erected bridge. Once loved and now looked on disdainfully as their current Knife Party manifestation (El Hornet and Ben Verse on a solo tip aside), why is it that they have now almost become a byword for ‘sell-out’ within the close-knit DnB world?

Attempting to source the origin of the fallout proves a difficult task – was it in the progression of their music from the all-out terror of early material such as Masochist to the largely simplified, synth-led later work? Or the fact that they had begun to make a financial killing in a scene that rarely produces such globally successful acts? Who knows. Yet the significance of their involvement towards and within contemporary Drum & Bass cannot be ignored, and as such I’ll be relaying the personal effect their debut album Hold Your Colour had on my introduction to the genre.

Propelled into the higher stratosphere by the blossoming success of their remix of The Prodigy’s ‘Voodoo People,’ my sudden yet largely uninformed enthusiasm for this acoustic-come-electronic hybrid courtesy of the group they call Pendulum became totally overwhelming – bearing in mind the track made a marked upgrade to the usual spiel of RnB pop I had become used to hearing on a night out.  A serious love for old-school hip hop and casual flirtation with Muse-era prog rock had been shelved overnight, swept aside by this immediacy at 175 BPM. I mean even the artwork screamed adolescent cool, something like the 2007 album cover equivalent of Lynx Africa. Any record that can make an icon out of Rob Swire must be worth its weight in salt right? The spiky-haired, jack-of-all-trades devil caricature in all his brooding glory (the man can sing, produce, DJ… “myyyy heroooo”).

There are now so many points in time I can remember with marked embarrassment: taking my top off and jumping around to Slam with a group of lads at my predominantly pop music-orientated student nightclub, essentially forming a mini-moshpit (I mean who does that really…) with Facebook video evidence to match; keeping my bedroom and balcony doors open on campus so that everyone else could also appreciate the LP as I literally rinsed the shit out of it, very loudly at that rate too. Yet there are fond ones too, including bombing down the M1 with an alarming recklessness with The Terminal blaring and those late night Football Manager sessions with headphones donned, dissecting the nuances involved in each track like the Willy Wonka sample in Through The Loop and $Pyda’s lyrics in Tarantula which I still struggle to make sense of, something about a mother and a sister and having their phone numbers.

No doubt this LP has now in retrospect become the defining entry point for the newer generation of DnB followers, myself included. At once proving both disturbingly accessible and satisfyingly ‘underground’ in the loosest sense of the word, if we were to weigh up the runaway viral success of Slam and its associated obese naked gentleman, versus Andy C’s regular set-opener-of-choice Through The Loop for those legendary Ram @ Matter nights. Of course from a personal point of view there have been scattered childhood memories suggestive of an innate taste for the genre – looking particularly at Notting Hill carnival favourites such as Bad Ass and a number of Shy FX classics (FeelingsEveryday etc) – but no other record comes to mind when I attempt to pinpoint the very beginning of what has become a very healthy obsession with contemporary drum and bass. Whether or not you can appreciate (or depreciate) the rather unfortunate turn of events that have lead the now defunct ‘Pendulum’ name into worldwide fame-mongery, anyone who actively follows the genre young or old will associate the LP with an experience or set of experiences of varying significance one way or another. The beginning of the end or the summit of achievement for a supremely talented yet largely derided unit of artists depending on personal opinion (of which there are many), I can say for certain that I’ll always look back at this album with a sincere gratuity that has helped in essence define not only my taste in music but working livelihood as it stands today.