EnglandNewOrder – World In Motion (Factory Records single, 1990)

Irrespective of whether England win against Croatia this evening, ‘World In Motion’ will still be a fantastic song.

That’s because, unlike ‘Three Lions’, with its raucous insistence on football ‘coming home’, ‘World In Motion’ doesn’t presuppose that we will win. Even in the (dodgy) rap by the then-England squad, it’s just talking about tactics, not some sort of incessant over-confidence in those tactics guaranteeing us success. Without that Keith Allen-penned rap, ‘World In Motion’ isn’t really even a football song; it’s just a great pop song about people uniting together through love.

In 1990, I still followed football. I still played Subbuteo, I still played football at lunchtime at school and I still collected Panini sticker albums. I bought ‘World In Motion’ (on cassette) primarily because it was a good song during a period of heightened euphoria, but it also signalled the end of my interest in football completely. In place of Panini stickers I began collecting records. I haven’t looked back, though I did find myself buying the reissued ‘World In Motion’ t-shirt and I will be wearing it tonight.

Sacrilegious though this may be, I sort of always wished that New Order had recorded a version without the rap. I think it would stand up well as one of the best of New Order’s singles without it, even though it would never have given them their only number one.

(c) 2018 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

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Parallax – Push For The Love Of Life (Mute Records single, 1993)

According to something I read back in 1993, Mute had not signed any new artists to the label for some time, the last new artist being Moby who joined the label the year before. Parallax, whose first single ‘Push For The Love Of Life’ was released by Mute that summer, were supposed to be Mute’s hot new talent. The project of Jason Young, Parallax were a bratty outfit grappling with the vernacular of hardcore rave, mixing those sounds with harsh industrial noise blasts and the type of rapping favoured by the likes of Pop Will Eat Itself. ‘Push For The Love Of Life’ would prove to be one of just two singles released by the band before promptly disbanding. ‘Push For The Love Of Life’ was written and produced by Jason Young and engineered by Julian Briottet, brother of Renegade Soundwave‘s Danny Briottet.

Though at times it feels barely a fraction above demo quality, ‘Push For The Love Of Life’ remains a personal favourite. The song is characterised by a frantic (if far too quiet) 4/4 drum rhythm and urgent bass line. Over that Young drops in a concise array of droning sounds, rave whistles, sampled snarling metal guitar, sirens and so on, topped off by impassioned and defiant rap. Whilst this brand of agit-rap hasn’t aged terribly well, there is a desperate quality to it, the track ending with a frustrated ‘never let go‘ from the frontman. In addition to the main single-length Savage Mix, the 12” and CD also features two further versions – the Valentine Mix and an instrumental version (credited on the promo 12” as an extended instrumental mix). The Valentine Mix ditches the vocal and adds acid-style synths which would give this mix a dancefloor appeal were it not for the simplicity and lack of club-friendly punch that characterises the track’s beat. Some ‘Join In The Chant’-style insistent howling is a nice touch and there’s still nothing quite so thrilling to me as a 303 sound operating on the edge of being out of control.

The release is rounded off by a demo version of the track ‘No Concept’ which was mixed by Paul ‘PK’ Kendall. Someone has said that the track samples Faith No More’s ‘Crack Hitler’ but I wouldn’t be able to verify that. ‘No Concept’ has a nice breakbeat, droning washes of nagging feedback and a distorted rap that feels like it would have suited Nitzer Ebb‘s Douglas McCarthy. There’s a sense of dystopian helplessness on this track, signalling the rise in quality that would characterise Parallax’s second (and final) release, the Bullet-Proof Zero EP.

First published 2012; re-posted 2018.

(c) 2012 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Miss Kittin & The Hacker – Lost Tracks Vol. 2 (Dark Entries single, 2018)

Artwork_MissKittinTheHacker_LostTracksVol2

“We were naive, innocent, adventurous and we didn’t expect anything in return,” is how onetime NovaMute artist Caroline Hervé described her partnership with Michel Amato, which formed after the pair met at a rave in 1996. Better known in the French dance music scene as Miss Kittin and The Hacker respectively, the duo wrote irreverent, sexually-charged music together that had techno as its foundation but which was just as influenced by the likes of D.A.F. and other early Eighties acts operating at the vanguard of electronic music.

Lost Tracks Vol. 2 compiles together four previously unreleased tracks from 1997 / 98, just before their debut EP and some three years ahead of their album releases for DJ Hell’s International DJ Gigolo imprint. On the fidgety opener ‘Upstart’, you can hear that soundclash between late Nineties techno and early Eighties synthpop with a sequenced bassline and icicle-sharp monophonic melodic clusters that sound like an offcut of François Kevorkian’s celebrated remixes of ‘Situation’ by Yazoo. ‘Love On 26’ deals with millennium angst over a bed of jerky electro and squelchy 303 hooks, while the grubby ‘Snuff Movies’ is The Normal’s ‘T.V.O.D.’ recast with the protagonist watching grim underground VHS tapes instead of Fifties road movies.

Closing track ‘The Building’ is a thudding acid house number with industrial edges, devoid of any human feeling whatsoever, complete with a spoken vocal from Hervé that’s as cloying as that deployed by Flying Lizards on ‘Money’. Truly fine lost gems from this inventive pairing.

(c) 2018 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

The Fantastic Plastics – Invasion (Altercation Records, 2017)

The debut album by Brooklyn duo The Fantastic Plastics, Devolver, was one of my absolute highlights from 2015. Its release saw me give the record a glowing review for Electronic Sound, as well as offering up further convincing proof that pretty much any music that originates from Brooklyn’s streets is still über-cool.

Tyson and Mandy follow up the album with a new EP which literally and figuratively picks up from where Devolver left off – namely synth-punk songs about demoralising work schedules, romantic Fifties-esque notions of sci-fi sensibilities and some of the most urgent synth-augmented rock since Devo’s Something For Everybody; ‘The New Elite’, with its line ‘we won’t be obsolete’ directly responds to a track on Devolver that suggested the human being was being replaced by technology, of little comfort here as machines mesh seamlessly with guitars as to be indistinguishable.

If what you want is something frantic, relentless and a huge amount of fun (albeit delivered with a wryness that suggests deep ongoing cynicism on the part of this duo), Invasion is unstoppably well-intentioned, taking in everything from Pink Grease-esque sleaziness and electro-infused riffs that feel like the duo have spent a long time listening to the mechanics of ‘My Sharona’s staccato centrepiece.

Honestly, when I was growing up, listening to the way synth music felt like it was overtaking pedestrian guitar rock at an incredible and thrilling pace, I’m pretty sure that The Fantastic Plastics were what I was imagining future music would sound like all along. By that measure alone, Invasion is nothing short of essential.

(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Kim Gordon – Murdered Out (Matador single, 2016)

‘Murdered Out’ is a new collaboration by former Sonic Youth bassist / guitarist Kim Gordon and producer Justin Raisen, featuring Stella Mozgawa from Warpaint on drums.

The track was inspired by Gordon’s move to LA and her observation that so many cars were being resprayed to a black matte finish, a rejection of expected norms and an anti-corporate, anti-establishment, undeniably alternative approach to life. Like that attitude, ‘Murdered Out’ is anything but conventional; everything here is fuzzy, messy and utterly non-linear. Distortion is used with heavyhanded abandon, leaving this track with the same black matte finish that Gordon was originally inspired by. There’s no doubt that the style of the track was entirely conscious and not as loose as it perhaps sounds, but nevertheless Raisen and Gordon give ‘Murdered Out’ a messy, detached quality that’s refreshingly ugly.

‘Murdered Out’ is available on iTunes.

(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Art Brut – Pump Up The Volume (Mute / EMI single, 2007)


emi / labels / mute records (marketing) | dl | 11/02/2008

Is it so wrong, to break from your kiss to turn up a pop song?‘ is the ethical question posed by Art Brut‘s Eddie Argos on the third single to be taken from the band’s 2007 album, It’s A Bit Complicated. The song is an emotional, tender song that manages to merge youthful sexual experiences with a passion for records that seems to eclipse the singer’s interest in the former. Hence the question about whether it’s fine to be as focussed on the music coming from a radio as it is on the, ahem, job at hand. Throughout, Argos manages to paint a vivid image of teenage bedroom awkwardness while big, punked-up clanging guitar riffs and soulful harmonies dominate. The more I listen to Argos’s semi-spoken, semi-sung delivery, with all his clever double meanings and casual observations, the more I think of him as a poet rather than an accomplished indie band’s frontman. The answer to the question, by the way, seems to be a very firm ‘no’, judging by the reaction of the girl in the song.

Released as a single track download the year after the album was put out by Mute as part of EMI / Labels, like all of their material from this period it is no longer available on iTunes. Whether that’s anything to do with the band apparently not knowing it was even being put out is anyone’s guess. This is what Argos posted to the band’s website at the time: “It seems Art Brut have accidentally released a single. Yes, the rumours are true. But how could this happen, you may ask? Why were we not informed? Well, my friends, pick up any thread of incompetence and it will usually lead you to a record company. That’s right, it seems EMI have decided to release ‘Pump Up the Volume’ without informing either the band or myself, making any kind of widescale promotion rather difficult.”

Thanks to Z for help with the preparation for this review.

First posted 2012; re-posted 2016.

(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Art Brut – Direct Hit (EMI / Mute single, 2007)


emi / labels / mute records (marketing) | 7″/cd/dl | 18/06/2007

‘Direct Hit’ was the second single to be taken from Art Brut‘s album It’s A Bit Complicated which was released and marketed by Mute as part of the Labels arrangement with their then-parent EMI. Packaged in a sleeve that evokes school maths lessons (designed by the band and Mute’s art director Paul A. Taylor), ‘Direct Hit’ was released as a 7″ and two-track CD; a digital release was probably also put out, but sadly has been removed from iTunes.

‘Direct Hit’ finds the band in feisty mood, spitting out faintly over-the-top AC/DC heavy guitar riffs that have no logical place on an indie record; Beach Boys wordless vocal harmonies blend in with frontman Eddie Argos‘s finest Colin Newman deadpan (‘here comes the really good bit,’ he says at one point, just like something straight off Wire‘s ‘Map Ref. 41N 93W’). There are also some rattling guitar interjections that wouldn’t go amiss on a mid-period Sonic Youth track, shouty chorus vocals, what sounds like a theremin, lots of instructions to get on the dance floor and move, and even some descriptions of social awkwardness. For a three minute song, that makes for a pretty busy little track and its relativel non-conformity gave some encouragement back in 2007 that perhaps the spirit of punk hadn’t been lost for good after all.

Across the CD and 7″ are two B-sides. ‘Dont Blame It On The Trains’ is an ode to staying in the house under a duvet, general laziness and snoozing the whole day away. ‘What am I doing this weekend? Avoiding phonecalls from all my friends,’ runs one of the best couplets on a track that has a musical palette that feels like Blur attempting a cover of The Velvets’ ‘Sister Ray’ in a ‘Parklife’ stylee. The It’s A Bit Complicated album includes a track called ‘Blame It On The Trains’ which is nothing like this. Over on the 7″, the fantastically-titled ‘I Want To Be Double A-Sided’ is an emotional paean to love and insecurity over a rough, garagey groove. Argos’s vocals were apparently recorded on a the tour bus by Mikey Breyer in a car park, all of which gives this the feel of a pencil sketch, and it’s all the more lovely as a result.

First published 2012; edited 2016.

(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence