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Civilisation Mick Middles , November 22nd, 2011 14:44

Drive to Sheffield, even now, and you can feel it. So many times I have descended from the delights of The Peak District. One minute, lavish beauty and then, all of a sudden, Sheffield's growling bowl. Flat blocks perched on hills, endless walls around defunct steel mills and a spaghetti mess of a one way system. Back in post-punk days this trip from greying Mancunia to the Yorkshire city which, for some reason, I always viewed as red in colour, used to take place every week. It was an industrial vibe with a touch of flash: Cabaret Voltaire, the embryonic Human League and always…always blasting away in the darkened club…Artery.

It was Artery who defined that time, that place, that feel, that vibe. How often, in a swirl of blue smoke, a band rising majestically onstage. One reason why Jarvis Cocker invited them to his Meltdown. He too, knew the debt that so many successful artists from the vicinity owed to the sharp end of the Sheffield scene. In today's climate, Artery's return to the stage is welcome and timely. 27 years have passed since their last studio album, and looking at the present day photograph that adorns the centre of this album, they could be Wire, Gang of Four or Subway Sect, also bands who have rediscovered their sense of urgency in recent years.

In Civilisation- and how wonderful to see an album title like that, again - Artery have taken this one stage further. Urgency is one thing but, in so many places, Civilisation sounds nothing short of edgy... more than, it is heartily paranoiac. One can only welcome this distraction. This is not a nostalgic trip.

Men in their fifties banging things, hurling lyrics into the mix, stretching towards the ferocious. It reminds me not so much of the music of post punk Britain as it does, thrillingly, of the feel.

There are places where the sounds here a floating synth, or drums that sound like someone smashing a metal rubbish bin – remember those?- with a fire extinguisher. This could well be the case, I don't know but it is a sound that makes me want to head for the dark side of town.

While there is no doubt that this is an album of atmosphere, rather than a collection of competing and disparate songs, a certain amount of playfulness has been built into individual tracks. There are moments on the opener, 'Standing Still', where the jaunty and grinding backing resembles metallic monsters from Norway. Titles such as 'A Song For The Lonely People' and 'Who's Afraid of David Lynch' also strongly hint at the humorous lyrical undertones throughout, despite the rather chilling 'The Night an Angel Was Raped'. These Mozzer-esque glimpses help add welcome colour and charm.

However, I wouldn't like to become too lost in the individual details. The great strength here lies in the way the powerful retro element has been gifted a contemporary freshness. Further proof, if proof were needed, of an idiosyncratic heart that at the time should have brought then to the brink of greatness.

And that is where we stand with Artery. For my money, Civilisation is their finest album. Who knows whether it will sit back and inspire others or lead them to greater things, but catch them live, if you can for they belong in your heart and deserve to be more than a warm fading memory. Still, they remain synonymous with the arresting sight of Sheffield, a big city among the hills.

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