Cabaret Voltaire: Keep On UK CD5 
- Keep On
- Keep On [western works mix]
- Keep On [clubbing]
When the second pre-release single from “Groovy, Laidback + Nasty” the paradigm shift that Cabaret Voltaire were undergoing as the 90s manifested became completely apparent. This was not your father’s Cabaret Voltaire! The fact that tracks one and three were mixed by PWL’s Phil Harding, speaks huge stone tablets as volumes! CV had been to the mountain [Chicago] and had brought the new gospel [House] to the people. And it was… troubling. When a group have honed their singular, unique, and always thrilling vision for as long as Kirk and Mallinder had by this time [16 years] only to have them adopt the same values that were frankly choking the UK music scene to death was dispiriting to say the least.
The 7″ mix of “Keep On” is actually a pretty good House-styled pop song. I’ve heard much worse. It’s just not a track that should have ever had the name “Cabaret Voltaire” on it. Because it’s not a CV song. It’s not about probing into the Veil of Maya that blinds our eyes to the manipulations of the power brokers of our society. It’s not a song about how desire can be turned malignant as it proffers a master we don’t even have the option of rebelling against as it lies within our DNA. “Just Fascination” examined fetish/desire as a cruelly rigid motivational force that was as absolute a master than The State could ever hope to be. This song seems to be about lovers and having fun. It just doesn’t cut it as CV.
The band’s own extended mix represented a huge sea change from the Western Works mix on their previous single. At least “Hypnotised” began to resemble CV on their own mix. This one, by comparison, sounds not appreciably different front he Phil Harding 7″ mix. It’s the sound of CV saying that they don’t have to sound rough or harsh if they want to. The flute patches sound nice over the bass sequences, but when should Cab Volt ever sound nice?
The mostly instrumental clubbing mix by Harding had Mallinder cut from the program, with Lorita [Colourbox] Graham’s backing vocals brought to the fore. That’s telling, because this song is so benign that it could have been easily handed off to any ex-soap star in the PWL stable to similar effect. In fact, one thing that struck me for the first time while listening to this is that Mallinder’s vocals are deliberately sung in an upper register to a feminine effect. Commenter Echorich mentioned in a comment yesterday that he thought he was trying to sound like Green Gartside from Scritti Politti and I certainly hear where he was coming from. He’s just a hair’s breadth away from the breathiness that Green favors, but otherwise, he’s hitting pretty close to the mark.
After this single, I didn’t bother with the album that eventually came. Like I mentioned, a friend bought it, disliked it, gave it to me, then I gave it back for her to trade in. It was only fair. Afterward, CV moved away from House to Techno formats that rendered the band largely sterile and faceless to me. The presence of Stephen Mallinder in the mix following the next two releases, “Colours” and “Body + Soul,” was sharply reduced to nil, but given the banality of material like “Smooth,” the net result might have been a slight improvement.
I bought and sold off “Colours.” I still have “Body + Soul” for the single, brief instrumental track “Decay” that is the last full flowering of the CV ethos as defined during their Rough Trade period. That is horribly shows up the other 95% of the album is sad, but it’s enough for me to hold onto. I could not say the same for the 1992 Plasticity” album which was in effect a Richard Kirk solo album. Kirk may have been responsible for 85% of the music in Cab Volt, but I maintain that Mallinder was responsible for 85% of the soul. I’ve not touched anything that Kirk has released int he years since that time, but I am eager to obtain the new Wrangler album that features Mallinder’s singing. It was great hearing him again on the recent mixes by Billie Ray Martin [“The Crackdown Project”] and John Foxx + The Maths [“Shatterproof”] where I found that I’d missed his work more than I’d expected to in retrospect.
– 30 –