[…continued from last post]
In spite of its rather abstract title of “Fast Karma/No Questions,” side two of the album began with a funky song of animal attraction where Tinker Barfield’s bass was interlocking with Bernie Worrell’s clavinet to syncopate all day long. This certainly could have been a single somewhere, surely?
Then the album reached a delirious fever peak on “Worlds In Collision.” It began with a foreboding drone overlaid on a chittering rhythm box. It could have been a swarm of flies on a corpse; it could have been a phalanx of bombers overhead. It certainly didn’t bode tidings of great joy. Then Harrison began reciting the voiceover lyrics which were abstract, yet with political overtones. When the bass guitar [Harrison this time] entered the thick mix, the bass line dared to dance among the doom-laden vibe.
Foley effects of barking dogs [five years ahead of Pet Shop Boys “Suburbia” remix] added to the palpable sense of threat, but the pressure cooker of the song was only beginning to build. Harrison continued to perform the lyrics in sprechgesang, referencing “all you mothers” before chuckling at the ambiguity of the phrase. This song was surely pointed at both kinds. Then Adrian Belew’s distorted guitar solo hit like a vial of acid in the face; fattened with delay in the right channel for an almost binaural spread in the dense, foreboding mix.
Eventually, Hitler’s Nuremberg rallies were overlaid on the writhing mix as Harrison returned to the song; daring to follow Adolph Hitler by leading a children’s chorus declaring how everything will work out fine. The Belew returned to fan the flames higher still as Harrison’s agitated vocals reached a breaking point in the song and album. Giving the final word to Belew as he recited more closing lyrics that sounded like propaganda, with his voice filtered for maximum dystopic impact.
Then the track segued into the healing ambience of “The Red Nights” and it’s as neat a feat of sequencing as I’ve ever heard; matching achievements on Eno’s own “Here Come The Warm Jets” or on Yello’s “Solid Pleasure.” TIn fact the first t wo minutes, suggested that Harrison was at least matching Fripp and Eno at their own game, with two minutes of probing, placid, ambience that would fit exactly on side one of Fripp + Eno’s beautiful “Evening Star.” With Yogi Horton’s expert drum fills, teasing the song along gently until Belew once again entered the mix along with the ladies of the backing vocals; guiding the gentle distortion to a healing place this time.
When “No More Reruns” faded up from the languorous conclusion of “The Red Nights,” it seemed like an addendum to the album. The static, mid-tempo groove seemed to be from another album entirely, and Harrison delivered his lyric in character; slurring his delivery for character emphasis. The drumming danced around the strict rhythm box setting the methodical pace. With Latin rhythmic undercurrents calling back to “Things Fall Apart,” but this was another song that circled its energy without resolution. The closest that it came to resolving the tension were the jabs of Harrison’s guitar that slashed out from the song like the fists from the boxing scenario in the first verse.
The concluding “No Warning, No Alarm” made the re-connection to the sort of Latin beats that opened the album. Harrison’s verses were a staccato stream of quick, percussive syllables becoming a part of the groove rather than sitting on top of it; only approaching singing on the chorus. Apart from the BVs, the main “singing” here was relegated to the horse-like whines of Belew’s guitar. Repeat until fade.
Next… The Red + The Black In Dub