Posts Tagged ‘Soft Cell’

Buzzhowl Records – 12th July 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Dingy’ as a descriptor isn’t to be taken as a negative here: and it’s a dingy mess or murk that opens Damn Teeth’s second album, with the intro to the first track, ‘You’ll Only Make It Worse’ manifesting as extraneous noise before the beats and the bass kick in to drive a snaking electrogoth behemoth. It’s Depeche Mode with the pained twist of Nine Inch Nails and the abrasion and detachment of the classic Wax Trax! sound. It’s a development from their 2016 debut, but make no mistake, they’ve not mellowed any, instead utilising the same elements to present something more focused and harder-edged.

And so Real Men pounds and grinds, at times bordering on the psychotic, as grinding Suicide-inspired synths provide the backdrop to vocals that veer wildly from snarling angst to clinical robotix. I could sling all the quintessential electro-based industrial acts in here by way of touchstones, but I’d only be filling space, because the chances are you already get the gist. Bu it’s also way, way more than that: the helium-falsetto on ‘MRA Soundsystem’ is unexpectedly more reminiscent of the late Billy MacKenzie of fellow Scots act The Associates (who also had tendency for ‘busy’ arrangements).

‘Dominant Muscle’ may be manic, even shrill and frenzied, but musically, it’s pretty lightweight and calls to mind Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s ‘Love Missile F1-11’ crossed with the first Foetus album, in that it combines a relentlessly driving synth rhythm backing track with extraneous noise and deranged vocals. And this is really the shape of things: jolting, jarring, jerking all over, Real Men is an album that doesn’t sit comfortably, instead revelling in layers of anguish, pain, discomfort, with a substantial dose of self-loathing in the mix. But as much as it’s got masochism in its soul, so the sonic pain inflicted on the listener is a wilful act of Sadism.

‘Deserving Pest’ comes on like NIN on ‘Reptile’ – all the sleaze, all the S&M, and I can’t help but be reminded of Marc Almond’s early output: it’s groove, but it’s also got a strong current of self-punishment. ‘Pink Pitbull’ pursues new levels of annihilistic torture, a hybrid between Dead Kennedys and a Swans album played at 45rpm. It’s fucking horrible, and so, so, disorientating, but simultaneously so magnificently punishing it’s positively addictive.

‘The People vs The Real Men’ feels kind flimsy with its throwaway synth groove that’s equally retro and low-budget, but it’s redeemed by the distorted vocal barks that provide a grit that cuts against the mechanoid backdrop, and it culminates in crescendous multitude of screaming, maniacal vocals that penetrate and remind us that lo-fi electronica doesn’t correspond with tame.

Closer ‘Coasting on Genetics’ feels a shade derivative, but that’s by technoindustrial standards, and even then, it packs a punch as it whips extraneous noise into a whorl of noise.

Real Men is a challenge, and it’s unquestionably niche. But it’s a work of twisted genius that will repel the majority, while those who dig it are going to go absolutely nuts for it. and yes I’m going completely nuts.

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Damn Teeth - Real Men

Cold Spring – CD 3rd August 2018 / LP 10th September 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

There are so many moments lost in the annals of history. This particular one has been languishing, unheard and unreleased for some 35 years. As collaborations go, this one is particularly special, and captures the spirit of the underground scene in the early 80s, with the original Coil lineup of John Balance and Peter Christopherson joined by John Gosling and Marc Almond. Although renowned as a pop singer, both solo and with Soft Cell, Almond has a raft of interesting collaborations to his credit: his work with JG Thirlwell as Flesh Volcano is a persona favourite, the pair amping up the sleaze and grime to deliver something quite dank and slimy. Better still, their live rendition of ‘Ghostrider’ for the BBC. And, lest we forget, undocumented save for some (painfully) ropey bootlegs, The Immaculate Consumptive, a short-lived live project (just three shows in three days in October / November ‘83) which featured Almond, Thirlwell, Nick Cave, and Lydia Lunch.

‘How to Destroy Angels’ was recorded shortly before The Immaculate Consumptive broke Brian Eno’s piano, on 24th August 1983, at the Air Gallery in London. And the recording has languished ever since, until now, emerging cleaned up and consumable. Although it’s still pretty raw, and if truth be told, sounds little better than some of the recordings of my own spoken word performances recorded on my phone. Of course, this has rather more cultural significance and wider interest.

As the liner notes observe, ‘the music bears only scant resemblance to the ‘How To Destroy Angels’ 12” that Coil would release as their debut vinyl the following year.’ And so the performance which would preface Coil’s studio debut was very much an experimental effort, a collaborative piece born of happenstance and a coalescence of creative fermentation that was bubbling around the time.

It’s Lunch’s influence that seems strongest on Almond’s contribution here: his narrative – a bitter tirade against an ex-lover – is full of bile and expletives as he spits the words quickly and abrasively against an eerie, unsettling dark ambient backdrop. Challenging is the word – but then, that’s entirely the point.

The Kos Kia remix of ‘How To Destroy Angels’, which whittles 23 minutes of audio to just over eight, feels a little redundant here. It’s not bad by any stretch: in fact, as weirdy ambient remixes go, it’s pretty good. It’s just a question of fit.

‘Baptism of Fire’ is an unreleased recording of Zos Kia and Coil at Recession Studios, London: dating from 12th October 1983, it’s contemporaneous with ‘How to Destroy Angels’. It’s the shortest piece here, and concludes the set with four and a half minutes of battering percussion, howling ululations and clanking, clattering noise that’s very Throbbing Gristle and very uncomfortable indeed.

While so many archival recordings and onus cuts on anniversary reissues – often of bands who were only of limited merit in the first place – feel like sloppy cash-ins, digging out second-rate demons , acoustic versions, remixes outtakes and live recordings of well-known studio tracks, this is a real rarity, which sheds new light on the origins of band whose effect has been significant and enduring. Moreover, it’s not only vastly illuminating in context of the nascent Coil sound, but a document which joints a number of dots in the wider context: and for that, this is an essential release.

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COIL ZOS KIA MARC ALMOND - Lo res album cover for web