Review Summary: An avant-garde political statement before splitting up.
Art Bears' third and final album was recorded much like the preceding Winter Songs
. Chris Cutler arrived at the studio with the lyrics already written, Fred Frith set them to music more or less on the spot and the album was completed in just a couple of weeks. Where the previous album drew heavily on Cutler's fascination with the Middle Ages, this album goes back to the Bertolt Brecht influences heard on Hopes and Fears
and the lyrics are unambiguous political words and a savage critique of global capitalism. Frith's music complements this perfectly, while Dagmar Krause gives an outstanding performance.
If the preceding Winter Songs
was mostly based on real songs, while not respecting the usual format, The World As It Is Today
is definitely more complex than it, and Art Bears shortest album, lasting only 30 minutes. Not only does the album returns to certain form of Marxism ideology, but the very dissonant nature of the music make it the most difficult album of the band. The influence of pioneers like Faust
and The Residents
is more overt than ever. While there is no out and out rocker here, "Democracy" features some thunderous drumming in contrast to Cutler's more characteristic feather light playing. The sonic palette has changed, with piano and keyboards more to the fore and less emphasis on violin and guitar than previously. Frith's piano contributions are at his best, while his knack with catchy but unpredictable melodies has rarely been deployed to better effect. The songs are also very much to the point, with six of the ten titles lasting less than three minutes. As ever, it is Dagmar who brings these songs to life, and on "Freedom" she improvises a truly blood curdling wail which builds slowly into a scream of anguish and despair, while Frith plays a perfectly cold guitar solo. This is a beautifully recorded album with Etienne Conod is at the controls as engineer once again, who really deserves credit.
All in all, The World As It Is Today
might be the toughest Art Bears album to understand, but it might be the most rewarding. The World As It Is Today
doesn't quite have the clarity and beauty of Winter Songs
, but it still is an excellent album. The lyrics are, if anything, more relevant today than they were back in 1981, although most of the people will disagree with them in some way.