WHY KILL TIME…?
Album Review of:
by CABARET VOLTAIRE
(Virgin/ Some Bizarre CV1 CVDV1, 18 August 1983)
This Cabaret Voltaire album, their eighth, probably received more media wind-up than all of its predecessors laid groove to groove. But that fact says more about the non-recognition afforded their earlier work than it does about any radical new departures evident on ‘The Crackdown’. Inevitably there are developments, a greater sense of discipline, of maturity, but what they’ve lost in risk they’ve gained in certainty, and largely everyone’s a winner. This time around there’s a higher vocal profile with distortion and effects kept to a minimum. There’s some voice phone-in distancing on “24-24”, odd found-sound tape dialogue in the eerie instrumental “Haiti”, and in the fade of the compulsive “Talking Time”, but to compensate there’s a corresponding up-gearing of dense storming cross-rhythms and percussion, particularly on “In The Shadows”. There’s some frills added by (ex-Soft Cell) Dave Ball and some production ideas from engineer Flood – another name known to those familiar with Soft Cell liner-notes. But ultimately any judgement of loss-or-gain comes down to context.
Viewed as the latest instalment of the Cab’s saga there’s key techniques, logical evolutions, and familiar reference points sufficient to satisfy the most discriminating of purist devotees. Yet sucked into the new chart company that the marketing strategy invites, there’s got to be comparisons with the Blancmanges and Passages of this world, setting up the Cabs hypnotic repetition and density, accumulative intensity, and dynamic tension against Electro-Pop’s more immediate hooks and melodic bribes. On repeated plays at high volume ‘The Crackdown’ condenses out favourably, head and shoulders above all such ephemeral analogies, but it’s odd that such comparisons should have to be made in the first place. The album’s lineage predates the entire genre! But this is entertainment. This is fun. “Talking Time” instructs ‘lesson one, you clap your hands,’ and the suggestion is hard to resist as they dance blipping jabs of fizzy electric washes over fast popping mechanical percussion augmented by Alan Fish’s planished sheet-metal drumming. This is state-of-the-art 1983 electric music for the mind and the body. And any slight recidivist preferences on my part for the vintage violence of ‘Red Mecca’ or ‘2 X 45’ should be politely ignore.