Review Summary: "Feel the magic of the dance. Let your mind slip in a trance. Everybody everybody get together. In ritual celebration."
Australian first wave industrial group SPK's Machine Age Voodoo
was a radical departure from their earlier music, enough to earn the pioneering noise group accusations of selling out from ardent fans. This much is fact, but if you look at industrial music in context in the middle to late 80's patterns start to emerge. Hell, out of who is who just about everybody went synthpop. Let's take a gander.
Throbbing Gristle, the originals pioneers of this big ol' mess. Chris Carter & Cosey Fanni Tutti went off to to start their own synthpop project, Chris & Cosey. Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson's post-industrial vehicle Coil dabbled with it, as did Genesis P-Orridge's Psychic TV. Cabaret Voltaire soon moved from errant post-punk to New Wave territory, before ultimately settling into a jarring direction to pump out otherwise defining minimal techno releases in the 90's. Boyd Rice collaborated with artists such as Fad Gadget and Death In June who whilst rather dissimilar had their roots in post-punk/new wave, and was an influence over guys like Marc Almond of Soft Cell (you know, that group who popularised Tainted Love
). Which brings us to SPK, who were perhaps the noisiest and most inaccessible of all the first wave industrial artists. Hell, even Aussie contemporaries Severed Heads moved from experiments in dissonant industrial music to synthpop. What chance did Graeme Revell and co. have?
The thing is this is
SPK's attempt at a commercial album. For anyone familiar with Information Overload Unit
, and Leichenschrei
, two defining industrial/noise albums if there ever were any, Machine Age Voodoo
may come as a bit of a shock. Hiring a female vocalist in the form of Sinan Leong (who later went on to become Revell's wife), gone is the harsh sound frequencies, mechanical dark ambience and disturbing samples of old. In is 80's dance pop, and damn, is it upbeat and energetic. Hell, the opening title track may be one of the best New Wave songs i've ever heard with it's tribal beats, horns and vocals. Machine Age Voodoo
, the song, sets a high standard for industrialised synthpop. Flesh & Steel
is what I would consider another essential cut on here. With it's infectious bassline and percussion, and sensual vocals it rivals the title track on a whole different level.
Unfortunately whilst not quite as good, the rest of the album is no slouch either. High Tension
, Metal Dance
and One World
are highly energetic and could have been minor club hits back in the day. With Love From China
sticks out like a sore thumb almost, for one it's much slower than anything else on here and feels more like a New Wave ballad, even if it wouldn't be correct to label it as such. It is still good though. The two mid-paced songs on here, Metropolis
and Crime of Passion
, provide a nice break, the latter predominantly featuring bluesy guitar licks completely unlike anything else on the album. All these songs are a mixed bag of stuff that kind of blends into one another, but as a whole it sort of works.
Overall, Machine Age Voodoo
is just kind of patchy. It's a refreshing listen for anyone who enjoys new wave and 80's dance pop, but may find itself at odds with anyone who is seeking more of the soul-crushing noise which was predominant on Information Overload Unit
. Hell, this album is all about the hooks. To me, along with other seminal 80's releases by industrial artists who went synthpop (such as Cabaret Voltaire's Micro-Phonies
and Chris & Cosey's Heartbeat
), I find Machine Age Voodoo
a slight, but worthwhile listen for gauging the direction of industrial music at the time. The title track and Flesh & Steel
are essential, though.