A Pox On The Pioneers
, September 30th, 2009 06:13
It's curious to consider that there's already an entire generation for whom the notion of shifting indie sensibilities onto the dancefloor is seen as something that began with Erol Alkan, if not Paul Epworth. Admittedly, Andrew Weatherall's public profile in recent years has often been somewhat minimal, but, really, you'd have thought his legacy was a little more secure. After all, it'd be tough to overstate his contribution to one of the 90s' most defining albums (to say nothing of the fact that, while baggy had already blasted through, "indie-dance" as such didn't really enter the lexicon until 'Loaded'), while the likes of 'Smokebelch II' kept him very much at the forefront of the techno takeover of more toilet circuit-friendly music some years later. Even his curation of the 9 O'Clock Drop collection back in 2000 pre-empted the noughties rediscovery of post-punk and the more leftfield electronic corners of the 1980s by some distance.
All of which means, of course, that, while his roots may thankfully predate the curse of irony, there's something wholly ingenuous about the title of Weatherall's first ever under-his-own-name release. Doubly so, in fact, since it can also be taken as a reference to the band that scored one of the first reggae crossover hits ever — an interesting interpretation, since the very first notes here are a skanked clank in debt to that very heritage. And, while there's nothing so punk as adopting a year-zero unorthodoxy — something that's most notable on the title track, particularly with its rejection of the very New Pop-specific trope of wild frontiers — it'd be absurd to expect this record to be a refutal of the entire palate from which he's worked in the past. And so it proves.
Not that this is a retro or even restrictive record: new nuances appear on every listen, and, although it's the most song-based work of his career, there's some justice in it showing up on iTunes as "Unclassifiable". 'Privately Electrified', for example, would once have been considered Balearica, but its cascading guitars, campfire choir and stoned, Space Hopper bass blast it through a modern filter; imagine a more conversational Friendly Fires. And, although its keyboards may be lifted from late-great-era Prince, 'Built Back Higher' — arguably the album's central track lyrically, given the scope of its reminiscent rumination — could almost be Terry Hall singing a Kings Of Convenience song via the same remix treatment Skream gave 'In For The Kill'.
Moreover, there are flickers of unfamiliar mining happening here too. 'Walk Of Shame' might enjoy some of the dark gravity of, say, Orbital, but it's a terrific take on moody disco nonetheless, while 'Miss Rule''s megaphoned-in glam-racket borders on the bizarre. Still, engaging as many of the songs themselves are, Weatherall's often at his best when flying off on more minimalist, instrumental tangents, and that's the case again here. 'All The Little Things (That Make Life Worth Living)' is an increasingly-out-of-phase celestial melee that re-weaves its core elements of staggering (in both senses) synth lines, lolloped percussion and lightning guitar into compelling combinations. Probably the killer blow here is 'Selective Walking', though: a bastard child of New Order's 'Elegia' and Metronomy's 'Holiday' that screeches through the speakers. The extent to which this'll update his legacy in the wider world remains to be seen, of course, but A Pox . . . finds Weatherall in deliciously rude health.