CABARET VOLTAIRE: GROOVY, LAIDBACK AND NASTY (1990)
1) Searchin'; 2) Hypnotised; 3) Minute By Minute; 4) Runaway; 5) Keep On (I Got This Feeling); 6) Magic; 7) Time Beats; 8) Easy Life; 9) Rescue Me (City Lights).
I must say that I am a tiny bit fascinated with how Cabaret Voltaire's transformation took place so slowly, meticulously, and at such a smooth rate — from The Covenant, with its emotionally neutral substance set to Charles Manson spookiness, to Code, with its purely formal darkness over unassuming dance rhythms, and finally to this record, which completely discards all traces of the band's seedy past and, in fact, in select places sounds like Phil Collins.
Okay, so actually some sources suggest that the album may have been influenced by the acid house genre. Me not having had much interest towards trendy electronic developments in the late Eighties (I was kind of more into Creedence Clearwater Revival at the time), I'm still not entirely sure what «acid house» is, but if it's, let's say, 808 State, then this album is definitely not even close to «acid house», because the only thing «acid» about it is how it eats away my ears with its bland, stupid-sounding rhythms. As far as I can tell now, twenty-five years after the fact, this is just run-of-the-mill dance music, without any serious hooks (which is normal for CV) and without any captivating atmospheric twists (which is not normal).
The opening number, ʻSearchin'ʼ, is fairly typical of the record as a whole: house rhythms, simple repetitive piano notes, disco strings, and unexpectedly high-pitched, sentimental vocals from Mr. Mallinder — it's nice to finally see him introduce some diversity into his singing, but not at such a terrible cost, because this here is not true Cabaret Voltaire, nor is it any other sort of decent music. Track after track, you get bales of club fodder whose only purpose (get you dancing to those hot new rhythms) outlived itself a long time ago. A little bit of rapping (ʻRunawayʼ) does neither harm nor good, but for the most part the tracks are remarkably monotonous.
I am pretty sure that only a major, major fan of generic late Eighties' dance muzak could still hold some love in his/her heart for this stuff. It is not even clear to me if this was an intentional sellout or more of an «experiment» — possibly the latter, considering that already the next album would bring back a little of that true CV essence. Regardless of whether they did this for money purposes or out of a crazy artistic whim, Groovy, Laidback & Nasty is very clearly the nadir of the band's career. Even the album title is like a self-parody. It's a good thing nobody was interested, though, or we might have ended up with a whole series of such turds. Thumbs down.