A Young Person’s Guide To Cabaret Voltaire [The Short Form]

Mute Records | UK | CD | 2014

Mute Records | UK | CD | 2014

Cabaret Voltaire: #7885: Electropunk To Technopop UK CD [2014]

  1. Do The Mussolini [Headkick]
  2. The Set Up
  3. Nag Nag Nag
  4. On Every Other Street
  5. Silent Command
  6. Kneel To The Boss
  7. Seconds Too Late
  8. Landslide
  9. Breath Deep
  10. Just Fascination [7″]
  11. Crackdown [Radio Edit 83]
  12. Animation
  13. The Dream Ticket [7″]
  14. Sensoria [7″]
  15. James Brown [7″]
  16. Kino [7″]
  17. Big Funk [7″]
  18. I Want You [7″]
  19. Warm

Two days ago I got an almost apologetic email from Cabaret Voltaire heralding their new compilation of tracks to be released on July 1st entitled “#7885 Electropunk To Technopop.” The mail went on to admit that “most, if not all of you, probably have all of these tracks already…” So true! And frankly, I appreciate the forthright honesty of Mute Records admitting that right up front. But that doesn’t mean that this collection is without merit! Certainly not.

For one thing, this is conceptually, the finest single disc distillation of the preferred phases one and two of Cabaret Voltaire’s career. On one hand, the Daleks-Go-Garage Punk splendor of the brilliant “Nag, Nag, Nag,” and on the other hand, the succinct dance floor doom of “Sensoria [7″].” Two great tastes that taste great together. The tragic house/techno phases of their career are simply avoided here. The first single from the Factory Sampler begins the selection that covers the Rough Trade phase of their career. The naive, Burroughsian electro cut-up of that era sounds almost ancient in that it was achieved with crude sonic collage and the earliest, cheap synths that had filtered down from Mount Olympus to the streets of Sheffield. The band had a conceptual drive in their attempt to confront the control process with their art that was honest, invigorating, and bracing.

When I first encountered them on “The Voice Of America” I was astounded to hear that there was a band finally confronting the major social issues of our time; namely, the manner in which political control was being exerted upon the citizens of the world by their governments with the complicit hand of the mass media. Are there any other topics worth writing about? As they made their way to the and of the Rough Trade years with “2×45,” the band had begun to approach the dance floor as their laboratory of choice for the formulation of their Molotov cocktails of sound.

The critical release that spurred the band through to their second, Some Bizzare phase that would prove absolutely perfect to my ears is actually missing from this release, possibly because there was never a 7″ remix of “Yashar” from “2×45” by remixer John Robie. So the second half of the disc begins with the next salvo in their dance floor pitch; the curdled, baleful sounds of the “Just Fascination” seven inch edit. The synth leads in this track never fail to induce goose bumps. Just thinking about them does the trick for me.

Has there ever been a more eternally relevant single than “Crackdown?” Sadly, it’s a tune that never goes out of style. I was delighted to see that this is not just a collection of CV singles; several album cuts have salted the playlist and never better than with the almost jovial track “Animation” from the “Crackdown” album. Yes, the perky technopop track is certainly hummable and quite the toe tapper, until you begin to notice the lyrics. Which seem to deal with torture and vivisection. I was always saddened that there was never a 12″ remix of this cut but its inclusion here is a vindication of the torch I carried for so long.

I have to admit that Richard Kirk has done a top job of condensing my favorite CV period into a succinct single disc designed to win new ears like no other possible gateway drug to the band. The disc has liner notes by Mr. Kirk and Mute head honcho Daniel Miller as well. The CD is priced to move and there is the possibility of a 2xLP as well [thoughtfully bundled with a CD in slipsleeve] for the moderate price of $22.95. Pre-orders from the Mute Bank will accrue a 10% discount for orders prior to this album’s July 1st street date. I may eventually pick this up just to get those previously unheard 7″ edits which are new to the digital space.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

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10 Responses to A Young Person’s Guide To Cabaret Voltaire [The Short Form]

  1. Echorich says:

    This is a compilation that melts in you mind not in your hands…to turn an advertising phrase on it’s side…Ok, it knocks it around a bit too and that’s just fine! Just Fascination is a template for all the industrial/techno pop which followed it…D-Mode, Front 242 and Nitzer Ebb were definitely listening…Crackdown has always been high on my go to list of 80’s tracks and is CV at its most literary. Cudos to Stephen Mallinder for getting the genius vocals of Billie Ray Martin in for remake/remodel in 2010.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – So true on the Nitzer Ebb! I still need to get the BRM “Crackdown Project!” At first the fact that it was a DL stayed my hand, then a year ago there were CDs released, but where are they now? The stinging irony was that the week of release I almost hit the button in itunes, and then I saw WAV files were available on Beatport, but as usual, the notion to buy things I cannot hold evaporated like the wind, and here I am… still empty handed!


      • Echorich says:

        BRM lends a mysterious and sexual component to the lyrics and doesn’t hold back on the delivery. Are you sure she isn’t still offering the CDs through bandcamp?


        • postpunkmonk says:

          Echorich – I have several of the freebie mixes which were incredible. How gratifying it was to hear Stephen Mallinder after 20 years! I checked her web store and there was no mention of the release. I forgot Bandcamp.


  2. djShelf says:

    In uniting two distinctly different phases of the band’s sound, this release reminds me of Japan’s “Assemblage” compilation. However, unlike Japan’s glam rock beginnings, Cab Volt’s industrial noise era provides a far more rewarding listen. I always favored the latter material on Virgin/Some Bizarre – more accessible but hardly radio-friendly hits. Very pleased to see “Animation” included – one of my favorite CV tracks – never picked up on the lyrical allusions to vivisection though! Need to give that a fresh listen.

    “Do The Mussolini (Headkick)” features on the Rough Trade “Extended Play” EP as opposed to “A Factory Sample.” As always, excellent commentary – thank you.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      djShelf – You have nailed it re: early phase of CV versus Japan. While I eventually came ’round to the first two Japan albums, I waited almost 20 years to do it! It probably helped that unlike Japan, my first exposure to CV was Rough Trade era. Which I appreciated intellectually. But when you unite the Apollonian and the Dionysian as CV so capably did during their Some Bizzare phase, the end result approached the ideal artistic synthesis. After all, if you free your mind, your ass can follow.


      • djShelf says:

        Ha! Perfectly put, Monk. Plus, ultra-cool Ferris Bueller is a CV fan (always get a kick out of seeing the “Micro-Phonies” poster during the bedroom scenes). Cheers.


  3. stellaVista says:

    I always find it a bit strange that people who like the mid 80s Cabs (and who doesn´t?!) were so critical with their later output.
    “I want you” was proto-acid house that arrived 3 years early. The whole EBM scene around that time was actually nothing more than a continuation of CVs earlier ideas. Sadly most of it would turn out to become almost a parody (play “shocking” videos on stage, look tough and make sure to claim in every interview that “you want to make people think”).

    I guess that the missing singles from “Code” are due to label politics, but they are really missing on this compilation.
    “Code” was an amazing album that found CV right at the point where their ideas had finally reached the mainstream. Not that the mainstream would have cared. (“Sex Money Freaks” and the title track are fantastic and essential CV). But I also think that they felt that they had reached a point where all was said and done. Thank you, America…but where to go?

    I have to admit that I LOVE their “Groovy, Laidback and Nasty”-house album!
    I bought all the “Hypnotised” 12″ versions. Designers Republic artwork, and extremely well produced electronic music with repetitive beats, great basslines, hypnotic vocals, mixes by Daniel Miller, A Guy Called Gerald and Mark Brydon. What was not to like?!

    Of course it was akward to find out that the Cabs where recording with Marshall Jefferson and Ten City. But hey, it was Marshall Jefferson and Ten City!!! Quality house music of the highest order that was far from being pure mainstream chart-fodder.
    I could listen to “Keep On” all day. This thing is funky as shit and has some great mixes as well. Here you could also hear the influences of the coming bleep/warp sound which would be the predominating CV sound for the coming years.

    If anything, Cabaret Voltaire from 1990 – 1995 really deserve a re-evaluation!


    • postpunkmonk says:

      stellaVista – Welcome to the comments! You have a lot of pithy points you’ve made in your comment that I need to address. First of all, I could not agree more that the whole of EBM was what I listened to because even with CV’s prolific output, I had room for more of that hard, electronic sound in my listening! The traits of presentation that you mention were veritable smoking guns of influence spotting. Of the lot that I soaked up, I still have a lot of respect for F242 and Nitzer Ebb. Ebb, in particular, had in Doug McCarthy another excellent vocalist who like Stephen Mallinder, avoided the pitfalls of what I call “ogre music.” That is to say, singing through a distortion pedal and I named the style after Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy; another band whose releases I completely eliminated from the Record Cell in my mid-90s industro-purge. Mallinder and McCarthy were like Post-Punk, urban bluesmen to me, and I appreciated their approach.

      As for “I want You” being namechecked as proto acid-house, since I’m an old guy who lived through the 70s and 80s, my go-to seeds of acid-house are two songs from a lot earlier; Simple Minds’ “I Travel” from 1980 being the ground zero closely followed by Depeche Mode’s “Shout” from the following year. By the time that “I Want You” happened, that was generations of sound later.

      Let me clarify my feelings to two CV albums of the mid-late 80s. When “The Covenant, The Sword, And The Arm Of The Lord” was released, I was shocked because it was more ragged and chaotic, featuring the “dirty” 8-bit sound that was worlds away from the earlier Flood-co-produced material from the “Micro-Phonies” era. “Drinking Gasoline” was initially shocking to my ears since it seemed like the band were going back to their earlier Rough Trade sound by going “in-house.” After a year of spinning it, I came to realize that TCTSATAOTL [phew!] was in fact, my perfect Cab Volt album! I came to appreciate the return of chaotic elements dating from the Rough Trade era to their newly computerized sound. It’s now a perfect blend for me.

      Which was why I was less than initially enamored of the almost too cleanly produced by Adrian Sherwood [!] “Code” era! By that time, I wanted my CV dirty and chaotic. “Code” was by turns the most clinical sounding album they had yet released. I was somewhat slightly disenchanted with it, until I heard GL+N! I was Suffocated By House [another post and a half there, I think] by 1988 and when a friend gave me her CD of it, I listened to it and gave it back; thinking that it would be unfair of me to trade it in instead of her! I have more to say on this topic, but it’s time for bed now… to be continued.


      • Echorich says:

        Code is an enjoyable album – it’s slick in comparison to what came before it, but it’s potential was squandered by Groovy, Laidback and Nasty. GL+N sounded like the pioneers jumping on a bandwagon they were afraid was going to leave them behind. Psychic TV was much more convincing for me a few years earlier with their Jack The Tab albums.


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