Review by: Graham Warnken
Album assigned by: Joseph Middleton-Welling
What if “Revolution 9” were an album?
Now that I’ve grabbed your attention with that shamefully clickbaity opener—that’s not this album. “Revolution 9” was a sound collage, not a piece of music, and was probably ill-advised even though I don’t mind it so much in the context of The White Album—it’s exhausting and unpleasant, sure, but those adjectives are sort of part and parcel of listening to the Great White Whale in full (I say this with the caveat that it vacillates between spots 2 and 3 on my list of Favorite Beatles Albums), and it makes “Good Night” that much more of a relief when it arrives. And here I am writing a whole paragraph that has nothing to do with the album I’ve been assigned! “Will this long-winded git ever get to the music I actually told him to listen to?” Joseph must be thinking.
Anyway, to get back to where that diversion was supposed to be going, “Revolution 9” is not music. Deceit is, to varying degrees, although like “Revolution 9” it is by turns exhausting and unpleasant. There’s a whole lot of white noise going on, to be sure, but floating through its currents are melodies and structures and all that good stuff.
The thing is, I’m not sure that makes it better. In fact, it might have the opposite effect. The melodies, when they rear their heads, whet the listener’s appetite, but they all too soon vanish into the foam again, leaving the listener frustrated and waiting for the next palatable bit to appear rather than focusing on the ambience of the sound collage. Not to say it’s impossible to fuse melody with ambient hellscapes (witness The Downward Spiral), but I think that the former has to be more present in order to balance the equation out; as is, the record is probably 70% noise and 30% melodic, and that’s an uneasy listening experience.
It’s probably my damnable Romanticism coming out, but I don’t necessarily think the political points This Heat are trying to score are best made by an album of abrasiveness. The Wall, for example, remains for me the most successful picture of hell ever put to vinyl primarily because it’s a dance of mingled beauty and destruction, the melodies and quiet moments becoming horrifying in context and making the terror of the more abrasive bits stand out. When the terror becomes one long drone it’s really hard to sustain interest. Not to say that the kind of music Deceit consists of is worthless, or that all music must be melodic, just that in this particular instance some moments of levity might have mattered more than sheer grinding agony for forty minutes.
The production is incredible, all that said. It must have taken a lot of effort to craft this album’s sound, and I would never take that away from the band. And I’m sure that in the context of post-punk, which I know nearly nothing about and to which I gather this album was rather important, its merits become a lot more clear. This one just wasn’t for me. (Even The Wall isn’t, really. I can only bring myself to listen to it maybe once every six months due to its complete horror. When it comes to music I’m less ready to abandon pleasure than I am for films or books.)
*retreats to Anthology 3 to recover with Paul McCartney’s dulcet tones and soothing acoustic guitar*