Thursday, 19 November 2009
8. Rippin Kittin, Golden Boy with Miss Kittin (2002)
I can't remember where I was I first heard Rippin Kittin, but I remember, every time I heard it, how it would creep under my skin, how it would bruise a bit deeper, how its mark still survives. Back in the early days of this decade, I still thought the world of dance music was a terrifying place, even though my favourite band was Kraftwerk – the band who started so much of it, especially the techno I was drawn to – and despite the fact that I had spent the best night of my life, until that point at least, at the Tribal Gathering festival. That night in 1997 was a real revelation, and I danced to Orbital and Daft Punk, as well as my dream band from Düsseldorf, into the early hours of the morning, fuelled by coffees and egg butties from a van manned by some gypsies from Port Talbot. Nevertheless, I knew that I was more of an electronic pop nerd than a bon viveur. This was partly because drugs weren't my thing, and partly because the idea of going to a club until 7am made me want to reach for a blanket and a big mug of cocoa.
But by late 2001, my fear about dance music – on record at least – was disappearing. I'd go to Select-A-Disc in Soho and Rough Trade in Covent Garden after work, look for records on labels like Warp, Kitty-Yo and City Rockers, and buy them excitedly. This was the year of Daft Punk's Discovery and electroclash – a cold, icy genre that has not fared well by reputation, but at the time shook my nerves, and really rattled my brain. I got obsessed with the Felix Da Housecat album, Kittenz and Thee Glitz, and Miss Kittin's disco-Nico vocals, which featured very prominently. When I heard she was releasing a record with Golden Boy – I didn't know he was, but his name sounded lovely – I was itching to buy it.
I remember buying a 12-inch for me, and another for my friend Kathryn's birthday. She lived in an ex-local authority block just off Morning Lane with Jeanette, her best friend, and their flat was like a dizzy, pop culture dreamworld. They were the Liver Birds of E9, were Hudson and Leech, their digs teeming with old videos, board games and seven-inches. We'd sit around talking about music while getting through 2 litre bottles of Soave, dropping Sainsburys dips over the blue, mangy carpet. And when Kathryn loved Rippin Kittin too, I was delighted – especially because I could now share this strange song with someone else.
Rippin Kittin, after all, is a terrifying song. Sung from the perspective of a young girl, Miss Kittin asks her mummy if she "can go out and kill tonight" because "I feel, I feel like taking a life". Set against two synthesiser notes, jumping down an octave like the downward slice of silver, it's one of the most unsettling lyrics I've ever heard on record. There's something particularly chilling about the repetition of the phrase "I feel" - so off-hand, so nonchalant - and it also makes you dwell of the weirdness of being a small child. Nevertheless, I couldn't stop listening to it. Drawn to its beats like the frames of a good horror film, I wanted it to chill my blood, as well as dance to it – as Kathryn and I did regularly over the next year.
I still find it strange that I did this; that I could move my feet at the same time as battling a sensation that genuinely frightened me. But I remember thinking at the time: we all do this, don't we? We are all human beings. Fear keeps us going. And it's our fight against it – by dancing, or singing, or otherwise – that's what keeps us alive.