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4 September 2010

Cabaret Voltaire - 'Red Mecca' (Rough Trade)

There's a lot to like in Red Mecca, particularly if you dig cold-yet-still-rambuctious songs in the CV mold. But things are so sharp and metallic it's more like rust than mould. Side one is pretty slow but continues from Mix-Up's more thoughtful moments, with lots of open spaces, more acoustic percussion, and more clearly enunciated singing. Though it's not exactly crooning. It culminates in 'A Thousand Ways' which feels weightless and never-ending, but without any exaggerated qualities at all. I've always gone to Cabaret Voltaire for their experimentalism, their approach to tapes and the interesting guitars vs tapes textures. But the songwriting here isn't half bad. Side two feels slightly more song-oriented, though there aren't any chart-toppers here. I didn't grok enough lyrical content to relate to anything specifically, but there's definitely a confidence that was lacking before. 'Red Mask' is practically a single, with Watson's tape loops dancing all around the more standard industrial rock grind. And it's pitted against 'Black Mask' (the titles are probably something to do with contrasting views of Islam or religion?) which is somewhat looser, around a standard mid-tempo drumbeat and with bleating synth hissing and distant atmospheric textures skirting around a songform. This record reminds me a lot of Savage Republic in a variety of musical manners - the monobeat, the chanted vocalising, the percussive single-mindedness. And like Savage Republic, Cabaret Voltaire are an 80's avant-rock band that hasn't really had their dues yet, at least in the sense that we're not making documentaries about them and they aren't doing reunion tours and these records aren't being reissued. And like Savage Republic, Cabaret Voltaire maybe didn't directly influence many of my peers but more likely were an influence on an influence. One inversion is that Savage Republic were a rock band with heavy industrial leanings, and I would probably flip that around to describe Cabaret Volatire. But like the last record, there are a few guitar lines that, while not exactly Led Zeppelin, have some sort of anthemic, cheerful lift that looks a bit more like on AOR radio than you'd expect -- in this case I'd say the harmonic progression of 'Split Second Feeling'. 'Spread the Virus' is pure evil though - despite a slight free jazz/circus feel at times - it's a goofy dark trip trying to break out of a straightjacket, and there's a nice shuffle to the beat despite all of the tortured growling. Moody, yes, and thirty years old now!

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