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Class ?

Main Category: Electronica
Also applicable: --------
Starting Period: The Divided Eighties
Also active in: From Grunge To The Present Day



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Year Of Release: 1989
Overall rating =

The Great August Socialist Electronic Revolution?

Best song: GOD O.D. (PART 4) or I GOT THE FEAR (PART 1)

Track listing: 1) God O.D. (Part 1); 2) God O.D. (Part 2); 3) God O.D. (Part 3); 4) God O.D. (Part 4); 5) Re-Animator (Part 1); 6) Re-Animator (Part 2); 7) Re-Animator (Part 3); 8) Re-Animator (Part 4); 9) Strap On (Part 1); 10) Strap On (Part 2); 11) I Got The Fear (Part 1); 12) I Got The Fear (Part 2); 13) I Got The Fear (Part 3); 14) I Got The Fear (Part 4).

The band's first album was to be called Armed Audio Warfare. It wasn't, because the final tapes perished in a fire, no doubt sent down by the conservative God from time to time to cleanse superfluous anti-establishment messages. What was saved came out as singles. Then, a little while later, Storm The Studio came out and whupped the conservative God's ass. Amusingly, the album's true nature evades a precise definition up to this moment. I've seen it called an EP; i've seen it described as "four songs with a series of remixes"; as a result, I've seen it neglected completely. Yet I have also heard fans call it the definitive Meat Beat Manifesto record. Who's right and who's left?

Certainly this stuff goes way beyond the simple "one song, four remixes" principle, for two simple reasons: (a) these sonic entities have a hard time being called "songs", and (b) they have an even harder time being called "remixes". Songs have a dynamic structure; these things only have "dynamic". Remixes are supposed to sound similar to each other, at least, as far as the essence is concerned; these things often sound absolutely nothing like each other. More accurate, I guess, would be to call the entire mess a big electronic symphony. Upon its initial release, critics didn't know too well what to do with it, so they called it "industrial". If I know anything about anything about industrial, this is one hell of a lame definition; we might as well call the Who industrial, because there's, like, tons of percussion on every Who record. Later on, there appeared a term known as "industrial dance", which is a teensy bit closer to the truth, but still not by much.

Let us not get bogged down in useless terminology debates, though. This is danceable electronic music - nobody would argue with me about that except for those who think that nothing past tango and foxtrot is danceable in principle. This is long-winded, complex, multi-faceted, ambitious danceable electronic music - if that ain't objective truth, then neither is the fact that "ain't" is good colloquial English grammar. Perhaps the best definition for the neophyte is "think 'Revolution No. 9' with a constant backbeat". And the backbeat does help things out, so don't dub me a hypocrite. A sound collage, no matter how intriguing it might be, is just a sound collage, after all, but when you superimpose it over a good driving funky beat, it can easily reach THE SHIT status. Provided the conditions are good.

Storm The Studio is an apt title, although Jack Dangers and John Stevens never intended to scare people shitless with the final result. Unlike so many of their colleagues on the loop and break front, these guys wanted to come out with a constructive message rather than merely another musical metaphor for the wretchedness of the world we're living in. There is only one truly "apocalyptic" track on the album, the fourth part of 'God O.D.'; by pure chance, it also happens to be the most industrial of all, featuring a fairly Neubauten-like factory beat at its core, and it also happens to be my favourite because it stands out so much. At approximately 1:45 into the song, you get something in between the Attack of the Green-Toothed Monsters From Alpha Centauri and a meltdown at your local nuclear plant just round the corner. It is totally atypical for the record in general, and besides, it's the kind of thing that would generally be expected from the likes of Ministry rather than these guys, but it's still unbelievably cool, and one minute of that bedlam manages to get imprinted in my memory far better than everything else.

Which doesn't mean that "everything else" is just background music/noise. Meat Beat Manifesto are, in a way, the George Lucas of the aural space, of which they seek to cram every nanosecond with as many samples, special effects, loops, and whatnot as possible. So much, in fact, that their "humanistic" message - occasionally expressed in actual lyrics, as in the "genocide" rap of Dangers in the first three parts of 'God O.D.' - gets almost completely lost behind all the glitz. So much that every time I put the record on, I proceed to get lost in it fifteen seconds into the first loop. Well, maybe not that much; some of the extended grooves are fairly repetitive and sometimes downright minimalistic. But my memory tends to neglect these parts and concentrate on the "everything's happening" ones.

It's at the same time hard and tempting to make any sweeping generalisations about the four "big songs" on here. The gamut runs from a 'rock' mood to a 'funk' mood to an 'acid' mood, with 'God O.D.' representing the 'rock' facet, 'Re-Animator' the 'funk' one, and 'I Got The Fear' the 'acid' one, while the only-two-part 'Strap On' lies somewhere in between the three; however, this is a vague overstatement if there ever was one, and you might see these same things in reverse. My impression for 'God O.D.' is mostly based on certain bluesy notes that I can't help but overhear, as well as the fact that all of those pseudo-horn and pseudo-guitar overdubs that they do really tend to be "soloing" a bit more than they do elsewhere. Besides, the general atmosphere is more disturbing; for instance, after the genocide rant has been performed loud and proud during the first part, it comes back in the second as a far "hushier", subtler, and scarier proclamation that sounds as if it were reaching our ears from under the ground, morosely articulated by a squad of zombies only waiting to come out and raise hell in part four.

'Re-Animator', on the other hand, relieves the pressure after the merciless twenty-minute meat grinding of 'God O.D.'. It doesn't have any particularly memorable riffs, but it does compensate for that with an overabundance of samples and "quotations" - for some reason, Bowie seems to be a particular favourite; one thing that may be immediately recognizable is the 'break down and cry!' crooning off the 'Young Americans' track, and bits of 'Fame' are also said to crop up, although I haven't managed to identify them yet. Just one more reason, by the way, why I associate 'Re-Animator' with the "funk" motive more than any of its brethren. Memorable? Not necessarily so, but a real cool treat for those with nothing to do to tear it apart and deconstruct the already deconstructed.

As for 'I Got The Fear', it's just one big acid trip all along, particularly obvious in the first part, powered by an unforgettable psychedelic synth riff. I think that it might also be reiterating some of the elements from 'God O.D.', but please excuse me if I do not allocate any of my extra time to verify that hypothesis.

I'm not that much of an expert on electronics to tell you just how revolutionary this thing could have appeared at the tail end of the Eighties; today, of course, you won't surprise any regular club-goer with anything on it (well, maybe if you play the fourth part of 'God O.D.' in his ear real loud), but in 1989, electronica was still too much of a closed field in its own rights to merge with rock, funk, hip-hop, and the "sounds of the street" in such an uncompromising way. That Storm The Studio, as well as much of the stuff that followed it, is all but forgotten in today's world, then, may only signify the sad truth that electronica is still treated as a one-day newspaper, here today, gone tomorrow. Then again, I might be dead wrong about it.

The really important thing is: despite the lack of titles, there sure is a hell of a lot of interesting things going on, and the relentless rhythms will anything but bore you to sleep, although headaches and toothaches for the more immobilised part of the population are not excluded. I wouldn't mess around with the lyrics too much if I were you - I'd be far more interested in hearing a gun-totin' bloodthirsty pro-Iraq-war anti-abortion electronica outfit, just out of purely theoretic interest - but repeatedly grooving around to all these breaks in headphones, pulling apart all the innumerable layers, is a so totally fun thing to do that I might actually get involved in that myself. In another lifetime, probably.


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