I watched Mark Leckey's Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore (1999) again because Simon Reynolds mentioned it recently. A few days earlier LJ and I had discussed the absence of youth tribes these days. I'm willing to admit that being middle-aged I might not actually recognise a tribe member should they saunter past, but being experienced in the matter I like to think I'd spot a specific sartorial attitude when I saw one.
He needs a haircut (as you can see), but apart from that, Mark Leckey's all right. He probably supports Liverpool, being from Birkenhead, but I'll forgive him that too. In the 70s, footie-loving lads from up there, the North, came to London, visiting Dave Godin's record shop, asking for a certain kind of soul record, so Dave called it 'Northern Soul'.
Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, the film that apparently 'made' Leckey, opens with Northern Soul dancers. The music's loopy and ambient, which is why it works, the loop suggestive of time trapped, stuck in an eternal groove, much like those who still Keep The Faith with Northern Soul.
Most members of my working class generation will have memories of what made them 'hardcore' and it may well have been Fiorucci for some. I didn't get into the Casual thing. A few years can make all the difference between being right for tribal membership. Leckey was born in '64, too young for Skinhead, Suedehead or Soul Boy, but ripe for Casual in the early 80s. The Casual association with football and hooliganism as part of Leckey's make-up possibly appeals to members of the middle-class Art tribe. They like a bit of rough.
A lot of the art tribe who loved Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore wouldn't know a wedge from a feather cut. Perhaps art students love it for the same reason footage that Teddy Boys and original Mods appeals to my generation. The difference being that they don't have youth culture tribes whereas we did. We saw Skinhead, Suedehead, Smoothie, Punk, Soul Girls & Boys and the Mod Revival. The tribes were a working class thing and as such, may be looked (down?) upon now by the middle-class art mafia as a quaintly primitive phenomenon. The sight of the savages dancing back then, or dressed in (designer) warrior costumes marching into battle...how thrilling, darling!
If all that is over now, has the social network's insistence that we declare our individual identity robbed youth culture of the need for a tightly-knit collective one? Has social mobility rendered being working class a shameful thing to admit? If so, the roots of youth tribe culture are poisoned. Just as declaring that to rent decent housing is good enough in this age of home-ownership, so being working class and proud is sinful. You mean you don't aspire to something better? The working class membership card is something you tear up because you want out and if you can't get out then at least deny that you're one of them.
The Oveltenys clip in Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, from times when Soul crews gave themselves daft names, is absurd, somehow suggestive of a prank the Dadaists might applaud. The Champagne Crew...some minimalist tribal percussion masking what dancers are really enjoying...the heart of a Saturday night...like all dancers robbed of what moves them, they look slightly ridiculous. Casuals and a roll call of treasured brands...cheesy quavers making shapes...klaxon sounds...Acid trax sounding as if they're taped badly from a club night emphasise the distance between now and the second Summer Of Love...a deserted rave venue strewn with rubbish...helium voices...and finally those clouds, not a beautiful sunset which all these tribes dance into but a grainy, foreboding scene to suggest...what? The sun setting on all that?
Tribes may be history now but who can say what the future will bring? It seems incredible that some young people haven't made new music which shares a collective attitude, wears a new look and strikes new notes in the name of something. Having access to everything musical, does the weight of it all render them immobile, incapable of original ideas? Unlike art and it's seemingly endless ability to remake/remodel itself, street culture is stifled, or rather, smashed into the profit-making momentary fragments forged by corporate high street fashion. They give The Kids a new look, every month, dirt cheap.
Similarly, music is made from a million parts, easily assembled on Bandcamp pages, where every artist can have their 15-minutes of ambient drone (or whatever). Those with loftier ideals may get lucky and see their sound made physical on a limited edition release. Either way, youths who buy it won't be desperate to get The Look; it's makers are invisible, never mind being potential style gurus. Elsewhere, in the 'real' world, 'live' bands play on, tumbling around on a spin cycle of past movements remade with slight variations, viable only because it's listeners are young enough not recognise what it rips off.
Even me writing about a film that's 16-years-old feels like a 'retro' act. The film's over. Tribes are over. Mark still has a career in art, though. Unlike musicians of a certain vintage, he doesn't need to 'reform' to revive a flagging bank account. There may be a Casual revival one day, who knows? I heard on the radio that football-related 'disturbances' are on the increase. Could the dreaded hooligan return en mass once more? It still goes on but rarely makes headlines; a bit like Northern Soul.