MANTRONIX: Music Madness (LP, 10 DIX 50, 1986)

In 1986 when this record came out, I was around thirteen years old and the existence of hip-hop and breakdancing was evident enough for me and a few pals at school to feel confident and knowledgable enough to form our own little breakdancing crew. After all, we’d all seen movies like Beat Street and Breakdance and listened to a lot of badly-recorded tapes of whatever repetitive beats we collectively managed to track down through random radio dial whirling and home taping. Admittedly, our middle-class Midlands-based upbringing may not have been the same experience as if we’d grown up in the rough corners of late ’70s New York, but regardless, the Electro Breakers (as we cringingly named ourselves) were formed, and enjoyed many a playground-based dance off during a few months’ worth of breaktimes. We must have been doing something right, at least in the eyes of our obviously hip teachers, as the highlight of our brief career was to host a physical education class for an hour, teaching classmates how to pop, lock and spin whilst remaining effortlessly cool, clad in matching Nike tracksuit tops.

Some of the artists I remember from those scratchy old cassettes include Roxanne Shanté, LL Cool J and Mantronix, amongst others whom I’d surely recognise but never knew of a name to attach to the sounds. I wasn’t much of a record buyer back then, so unfortunately I don’t have an outstanding collection of original early hip-hop and electro vinyl, but nowadays I’m very slowly picking up records here and there to, effectively, recreate those old cassettes that are now long gone. So, this Mantronix album was acquired at a charity shop somewhere – I can’t remember where – a few months ago. As is so often the case with these things, however, it was something of a small disappointment to play it after a twenty year gap. It’s good, but it’s not as revolutionary or inspiring as it seemed to be back then. I guess that’s what comes of knowing more about music, putting things in perspective and forming your own timelines and histories of sound? The genuine thrills become few and far between. That sounds sad, but it’s not supposed to – I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m not about to reform the Electro Breakers, though.

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