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Electroclash faded, but movement's stars shine on

By Luke Baumgarten

SPOKANE, Washington (Billboard) - The electroclash movement in music struck a brief, bright chord, taking shape by 1999 and exploding into the mainstream consciousness by 2001.

At the genre's dawn, the theatrical outfit Fischerspooner landed a deal with Capitol Records that was as big and splashy as its music. Larry Tee, a longtime club DJ and party boy, coined the term "electroclash" and became the movement's chief proponent. The gender- and genre-bending rapper/singer Peaches became the occasionally bearded public face of the scene when she headlined the electroclash tour.

While the scene's influence can still be heard in acts like Katy Perry, Justice and Simian Mobile Disco, none of electroclash's formative artists ever broke the 75,000 mark in sales, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Despite the odds stacked against them, however, all three acts have chosen to stay in the music industry and keep recording; coincidentally, all are releasing new albums May 5.

With electroclash as dead as disco, the chief question is how these artists continue to redefine themselves.

For Fischerspooner, it's a matter of escaping the expectation and bureaucracy that accompanied success. The duo's Warren Spooner says being on a major label made him feel more like an accountant than an artist, juggling budgets and submitting proposals. The act's new album, "Entertainment," is self-financed, self-released and, in Spooner's mind, reconnects with the art in a way that Fischerspooner's sophomore album, "Odyssey," could not.

"With 'Entertainment,' I was inspired to do something a little rawer," he says. "The goal previously was to always push toward the highest production values possible, but it becomes so costly, then so political."

Tee, realizing that everything he now loves musically he discovered on the Web, went about cobbling together many of those artists -- along with Internet celebs like Perez Hilton -- into his raucous new set, "Club Badd." Tee says his goal was to create something so completely modern it would make 2002 seem like 2,000 years ago, and he points to his collaboration with the gossip blogger, as well as his name-dropping of blogged-about-today, gone-tomorrow micro-stars like the self-proclaimed "Queen of the Internet" Jeffree Star and the New York nightclub promoter Roxy Cottontail.

For Peaches, it's about establishing herself as a brand independent of any scene. Her bravada, beats and facial hair catapulted her to a level of mainstream recognition no one else in electroclash achieved: She worked with Joan Jett and Feist, toured with Nine Inch Nails and found her music in everything from "The L Word" to "Lost in Translation."

Now she's turned her attention to composing tracks that sound like early Madonna and are drenched in new wave synths. She still talk-raps about her beard and mustache and all the sexually masculine things she'd like to do with her feminine parts, but "Mud," a track from her new album, "I Feel Cream," could be a Vanity 6 song.

Peaches dedicates the first few lines of "Serpentine," the opening track on "I Feel Cream" to the movement: "I've done the dash/Done electroclash ... outlasted the backlash."

(Editing by Sheri Linden at Reuters)

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