Review Summary: As the doomsday clock strikes 11:59, This Heat produce a masterpiece of brave experimental music, written under the most extreme duress - the impending end of the world.
"The whole speak, 'Little Boy' and uh..'Big Boy'...Calling missiles cute little names. The whole period was MAD. We had a firm belief that we were going to die and the record was made on those terms.… The whole thing was designed to express this sort of fear..And angst" - Charles Hayward, drummer and founding member of This Heat.
Music for after the apocalypse had already been established. Barren, deserted and unidentifiable sounds all play host to their inhuman masters, music written by robots, not by humans - obviously. Spooky, true. But if there is music after the fallout, there must be by that definition, music immediately before it. Conscious of their impending doom, This Heat are that band, a band who recorded an album in a frenzy, because they knew the end was nearer than anyone could ever have predicted.
Retroactively, it's very easy to lump Deceit, This Heat's second album in with the other standard post-punk of it's time. The B-52's were partying on the other side of the Atlantic, Wire were making groundbreaking sonic experiments in New Wave, and Joy Division had just recently called it a day, albeit it, not on their own terms. This Heat fit neatly in with these bands, just another experimental blip on the hugely creative late 70's music scene, but of course, on closer listen, This Heat are probably the most downtrodden band of their time, and with good reason, they were convinced the world was going to end.
Musically, the band's style toed the thin line between experimentalist krautrock, and the obvious punk influences at the time. The mix was a popular one, yet no other band managed to make it sound so authentically obscene and doom laden as This Heat. Featuring tape loops, skittery unpredictable drumming, chanted vocals, and extremely twangy and discordant guitars, Deceit is the sound of a band losing control, but maintaining their creativity. It's loose instrumentation is a vital component of the chaotic and frightened sound that the record manages to build on throughout.
The album starts with Sleep, a simple song that implores the listener to simply 'sleep sleep, go to sleep'. An ominous warning for the frightening future that lays ahead of the destructive human race, or more simply a warning of the album's heady experimental heights? Sleep segues into Paper Hats seamlessly, a track built around a synchronised wall of heavily rolling guitar and ionized drum beats, all of which cave in to an alien sounding chant of 'well, what do we expect - paper hats? or maybe even roses? the sound of explosions?'. Ominous indeed.
The next track, Triumph, is a largely instrumental track, built around a fuzzy buzz-saw wave and what genuinely sounds like a radiator getting hit with spoons, all of which opens the door for a lead part played by a kazoo.
The shadow of David Bowie, like anything in the early 80's, hangs extremely heavy over the album. His droning, chant that was and still is so popular permeates even this album, on the next track more so than any other, S.P.Q.R. The song has a real rush of confusion to it, quick vocals and an even quicker drumbeat serve to throw the album into a shadow of chaos. The bomb is about to land.
Cenotaph and Shrink Wrap show the bands talent at manipulating tape loops, the latter of the two tracks being a mash-up of tracks previously featured, which finally becomes it's own bizarre, tribal orgy. From Radio Prague, the album really begins to become quite frightening, in a genuinely dark, unpredictable and confusing way. Industrial drumbeats are spliced up with random conversations, occasional flickers of banging, sampled radio, and god knows what else. All of which manages to accumulate itself in such a disgustingly sinister way that it becomes hard to bare.
Thankfully the barren and inhuman soundscapes give way to more direct and shocking tracks in the form of Makeshift Swahili, Independence, and the eerily named, A New Kind of Water. Sticking with the nuclear theme of the review, these tracks really are the ones written by the irradiated victims of a nuclear war, the vocals are wailed, the instrumentation is loose, loud and utterly hate driven, the lyrics are broken up into caveman speak, the band are becoming that which they fear they soon will, the dead, or the nearly dead. They are ghouls, and somehow their instruments have survived, their words speak more than the music could: "Here is a paralyzed sleet, here is a bubble bath rain, acrid stench and festering tongue. New York, Moscow, Nairobi in flames".
The last track, Hi Baku Shyo, (in Japanese, literal translation "to suffer bomb disease") is all you would expect it to be at this point. Silence, eerily permeated by the occasional groan, a burst of synth, the moans of the dying, and a low bass throb. This is the end, the bomb has dropped, and the world has ended. The song ends suddenly, with no fade out. An eerie tactic and an extremely well executed one.
On first reflection, Deceit seems to be just a collection of bizarre experimental tracks with no connection, but when under the context of constant, unavoidable nuclear threat, it becomes it's own entity, a true soundtrack to the end of the world, a scary reminder, and an accurate one, of the perils of our own stupidity, carelessness and hate for eachother. Every track painting it's own obvious scene of terror. Deceit may not be as listenable as This Heat's first album, but it serves as an amazing reminder as to the power of human imagination, fear, and anger.