Sutcliffe Jugend - This is the Truth (Ground Fault Recordings/Hospital Productions CD)
Almost a full-on 80's resurrection here. Broken Flag box, Pure CD, and now a new release from one of the pioneers of the 80's U.K. power electronics schmozz, Sutcliffe Jugend (reverting back to the full name after a short-lived stint as SJ). This is the first record Kevin Tomkins and Paul Taylor have released under the name in eight years, the last being 1999's "The Victim as Beauty" on Death Factory. Now presumably a full-time unit again, the duo have been terrorizing lands from Amer'ka to Japan in recent days - I was fortunate enough to be caught in their line of fire during last year's No Fun Fest, which I had to skip this year. I don't remember much of their set, but then again I don't remember much of anyone's set - alls I know is it was blasting, and since I had hardly heard a note of their music prior to that show, I figured I should probably be getting around to rectifying that. To date I've only tracked down and purchase cassette number one of their insane 10xCS (and later 10xLP) "We Spit On Their Graves" set. Don't ask me why I have just the one, it was on eBay and it was reasonably priced. If you want to sell me the remaining nine tapes, I'm all ears. But till those come along I thought I'd tide myself over with this one, also available on 2xLP featuring two extra tracks and an alternate mix of the title track. I picked up the CD version because I needed to cut costs when I was putting together a particularly hefty Fusetron order. You know how these things are.
When listening to Sutcliffe Jugend, it's nigh impossible not to draw comparisons with the band Kevin Tomkins got his start in (or at least gained prolificacy in) - Whitehouse. Both units feature terse, shouted instructions/slogans/belittlements in an English accent against a backdrop of either tense, creeped electronic slither or ear-exploding amplifier destruction via guitar and/or synthesizer. But where Whitehouse tend to veer into the ridiculous with tongue-in-cheek, Sutcliffe Jugend play it as straight and unflinchingly as humanly possible. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. The looming industrial churn on the title track has just about all of its potential atmosphere cancelled out by Tomkins' listless recital of humdrum lyrics like "I love you/I hate you/And this is the truth/and this is the lie" that were passé before the band even formed in '82, and the same could be said for "Pigboy". It sounds like the duo are putting all their effort into creating a psychologically harrowing exercise in tension, but c'mon: "Pigboy/you fat fuck/you fat fuck!/everything about you disgusts me/everything you are I'm not/everything I am you're not/fuck you pigboy/squeal"? Like I said before with Whitehouse, I can relish the over-the-top-ness of almost any lyric you throw at me, but surely you can forgive me for not being intimidated, much less impressed, by gems like those? Fortunately, it's not all a wash. Album opener "Born Again" works the slow gnaw to cold sweat effect and jumps from muttered recitals/piercing concrète drones to screeching noise hell in a tenth of a second, while "What If" is a marvellous juxtaposition of sinister synth/pedal scowl and overdriven vocals/feedback. Elsewhere, "Restraint" mirrors a slow descent into dementia with Tomkins' shriek getting increasingly hysteric to the tune of hulking guitar, keyboard and amplifier noise that sounds akin to what getting your hair cut by a helicopter's propeller might, and "Your Weakness" is an almost rock-ist take on SJ's violent noise muscle, before being pushed into the red with endless walls of feedback scream and brutally harsh electronic shred. The 8-minute trek through the swampy "Obsession" does absolutely nothing to prepare you for what awaits on the other side - "Blind Ignorance" is attacks with such sharpness and aggression from second number one that I thought I was, in fact, going to go blind. I won't tell you any more about it except it'll put hair on your chest like nothing else ever could while simultaneously committing genocide on all the sperm that ever lived inside you. Talk about going out on a high note. I could've been killed back there!
The Ground Fault/Hospital joint announcement for "This is the Truth" trumpets it as being "quite possibly stands as one of the most original and perfectly balanced noise compositions of the last 10 years." I would take issue with the latter part of the sentence particularly - "Truth" has its moments, and when it's good, it's great, but it's also guilty of being spotty and uneven. Which, if I were some kind of mouth-breathing doof, would say is a microcosm of the band's entire existence, but that's a crutch I'm not even gonna lean on. Ain't that the truth.