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Friday, September 24, 2010

The Art Of Noise: In No Sense? Nonsense!


1) Galleons Of Stone; 2) Dragnet; 3) Fin Du Temps; 4) How Rapid?; 5) Opus For Four; 6) Debut; 7) E.F.L.; 8) A Day At The Races; 9) Ode To Don Jose; 10) Counterpoint; 11) Roundabout 727; 12) Ransom On The Sand; 13) Rol­ler 1; 14) Nothing Was Going To Stop Them, Anyway; 15) Crusoe; 16) One Earth.

On their third album, Art Of Noise decided to hit it off the deep edge. Now reduced to the core duo of Dudley and Jeczalik, no chains prevented them of making the psycho-electronic equiva­lent to Jethro Tull's Thick As A Brick: a sprawling, not-obviously-coherent mess of tunes, ef­fects, and ideas whose main point is «never let the listener understand where he is going to find himself the next moment».

My version of this album is not actually divided into sixteen tracks; just like the original CD versions of Thick As A Brick, it only contains two, and I have never given myself the trouble of trying to understand which sections of these two correspond to the sixteen «songs» listed on some of the editions — and I am pretty sure that the dynamic duo themselves never intended for any­ of their fans to waste time on that trouble. No single track on the album truly stands on its own; it all works as a single-breath fourty-minute Art Experience.

As usual, the saving grace, particularly for those who are not amused at the idea of art for art's sake, is «fun». Certain chunks don't go anywhere and are really quite boring (particularly the ones that go for that old «brea­thy moody» style of 'Moments In Love'), but every once in a while they bring out the brawny dance rhythms, inject them with samples of whatever they heard on TV the previous day, then interrupt and replace them with crap stuff any time they feel like it — then, as you start cursing under your breath, bring them back... for a while. In short, they cling on to their reputation as the arrogant hoodlums of sampling, and that counts.

The only single piece of it that stuck with audiences was, unsurprisingly, the band's rearrange­ment of the classic theme from the old TV show Dragnet (to serve as a modernized version for the 1987 movie), maybe out of sheer amazement that no significant pop artists since Ray Antho­ny in 1953 had ever wanted to ingrain it into the public conscience as much as, say, the Batman theme. The rearrangement is as fine as the theme itself (and pokes some concealed fun at the show's trappings by looping the spoken line 'I carry a badge' many times over), but sort of obscu­res the fact that much of the rest of the album also consists of music, and not only that, but music originally written by the band members themselves.

A thing, in itself, controversial: the album that presented Art Of Noise in their least compromi­sing, most seriously inaccessible emploi, at the same time betrayed their original purpose — to serve as spiritual guides to machine-crafted art — like no other. There's guitar solos a-plenty on the record, violins playing classical interludes, lounge jazz pieces coolly swung on electric pianos: they're almost becoming a real band. Sure it all goes away then, replaced by crowd recordings or wobbly white noise, to remind us that we are still in 1987, but then wham, you get a fresh saxo­phone solo passage or something. Want it or not, the human still shows through the machine.

Overall, it is the kind of album that really makes me wish Anne Dudley were born ten years earlier and had herself a little stand next to Yoko Ono's at the Indica Gallery, because In No Sense — in all senses — is that particular musical statement that 'Revolution No. 9' could have been, but never was. Of course, one big difference is that Art Of Noise, at their best, were inten­ded to be fun: laughing-smiling, celebrating life's absurdities or, at least, mocking them rather than being terrified at their sight. But then that's exactly what the Beatles' spirit was, too, isn't it, before life made them all bitter and grim? I don't know about everybody else, but this is just the way I like my modern art: self-ironic, easy-going, butterfly-style. You may hate this album, but you will almost certainly snicker at it at least once or twice, and that's enough by me. Thumbs up for all the good feelings.

Check "In No Sense? Nonsense!" (CD) on Amazon

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