Review Summary: The Tea Party's Transmission is an achievement in industrial rock, and a lesson in consistency.
The Tea Party is a rather messy band. Their style of hard rock with world music influences (involving Indian and middle-eastern melodies) often results in a clustered sound. Everything is everywhere at once, as middle-eastern instruments and chaotic guitars clash into a confusing soundscape. As such, it makes sense that The Tea Party would create an album to culminate all aspects of their style, into a disorganized but organized frenzy. Transmission essentially showcases the band’s short-lived industrial phase, and is a bit of a departure from their previous world music leanings. The Indian and Arabic scale are still used often, and middle-eastern instruments are still occasionally in play, but the effect is less dominant in comparison to previous albums. The band members are still enticed by the mystical and obscure. In Transmission, this strange obsession rears its full head through the mechanisms of industrial rock.
Transmission is a bit less accessible than expected, but this is acceptable. The band members are finally playing to their abilities, and those abilities often involve a transmission of loud noise. As far as noise goes, ‘Temptation’ plays the cards just right with goofy, abrasive synth work, middle-eastern-inspired strings, mesmerizing guitars, the occasional booming drum loop, and a masterfully enticing, but destructive vocal performance. Before ‘Temptation’ though, ‘Army Ants’ breaks in the album; the song shatters the listener with absurdly aggressive vocals only surpassed by ‘Babylon’. Hook-ridden guitars enter the ears of the listener as the song could be considered a continuation of the ideals of ‘The Bazaar’. ‘Army Ants’, perhaps, is a bit too weak to be considered one of the band’s greats, but is still the perfect song to open the album with. Immediately evident from those first two tracks, (‘Temptation’ and ‘Army Ants’) is that the band is pulling no punches – this is The Tea Party’s most aggressive album.
As well as blatantly aggressive and loud, the album also contains their darkest material. Everything is twisted to be shockingly creepy, and although this could be accidental, the music videos for ‘Temptation’ and ‘Babylon’ make it clear that the band members are completely serious. The lyrics are also quite serious, as they are influenced by the works of a great number of people: Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Yevgeny Zamyatin, and Giovanni Piranesi. The lyrics, though, are so aberrantly outlandish that no background check is necessary to realize that the album’s lyrics swim in obscurity. The eerie ‘Bablyon’, for instance, claims such irrevocably peculiar prose as: “Now that the thrill of the massacre is over, isn’t it sweet as she sucks on your veins”. Understandably, the soundscape of the band shifted into industrial rock to match the strange lyrics (or perhaps vice versa occurred). The mood surrounding the album is dark and sinister, which is somewhat unlike them; there is never a silver lining so that the listener can catch a breath after the suffocating persistence of the gloom.
Transmission is easily The Tea Party’s most consistent album. As opposed to previous albums, where the band would employ world music inconsistently, Transmission sticks with the premise of an industrial rock album. When the middle-eastern element is employed in this album, it is tastefully employed – never flippant or overbearing. Electronics seem to fill the space of a large portion of the album, which could arguably be called the back of the band’s industrial spine. Sampling, loops, and synthesizers are a constant presence in the album, and ‘Babylon’ is the prominent example with drum loops, fake guitar, and other such gizmos. Keyboards are also used to the best of their abilities, and are a constant force of chaos, adding bite to the album. Transmission is entirely experimental, as the band have fully indulged their imagination, seemingly adding every idea that came to their mind at the time. Despite being quite different from previous albums, this is arguably The Tea Party’s best album. The Edges Of Twilight will always remain an essential album, but Transmission is still their most consistent release.