Negative Gain Productions – 9th September 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Curse Mackey has enjoyed an enviable career as a frequent performer with legendary industrial collectives Pigface and My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, and has built a substantial catalogue of work as a solo artist too – and it’s perhaps to be expected that much of this, including his latest, Immoral Emporium, is defined by the vintage late 80s / early 90s Wax Trax! electroindustrial sound.

While Immoral Emporium is undeniably dark, it’s also fairly poppy and accessible, with a title track that calls to mind more recent Gary Numan. And this is in the region of the album’s tone and style overall.

Starting off, ‘Smoking Tongues’ is strong on melody and surprisingly sparse retro synths and while Depeche Mode circa Black Celebration comparisons are likely the obvious choice, it’s as much A Flock of Seagulls. That may appear to some as a rather casual dismissal as being flimsy pop, but the electropop that rode the charts in the early to mid-80s was way darker than it’s usually given credit for or remembered as being. Consequently, suggesting that the spoken-word verses of ‘A Sharp Reminder’ are reminiscent of Pet Shop Boys’ ‘West End Girls’ is absolutely no sleight.

‘The Reveal’ takes a turn for the more overtly industrial, with menacing synth bass pulsations and a death disco thudding beat. ‘Dead Fingers talk’ borders on bouncy, and while ‘Lost Body Hypothesis’ is harder, darker, and driven by a nagging bass, it’s in the same sphere as Nine Inch Nail’s ‘Sin’, and it’s that late-80s grind that dominates Immoral Emporium. Many will bang on about how Pretty Hate Machine broke new ground, but the fact is, without denigrating what is undeniably an outstanding and era-defining album, that it only broke the territory in commercial terms. It maty have added some layers of noise in the production, but it didn’t really add all that much to what Ministry and Depeche Mode had already been doing, and that’s before we get to the conveyor-belt catalogue run of acts churned out by Wax Trax! between 1986 and 1988 with releases by the likes of Revolting Cocks, Front 242, and Fini Tribe. There was a certain sameness among the label’s acts and releases, but they worked, because there’s something instinctive and primal about drums that thump and clatter distortedly against insistent bass workouts and various elements of extraneous noise.

On Immoral Emporium, Curse very much revisits his roots, and it’s well-realised with solid songs packed back-to-back.

AA

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