New Musical Express
Mat Snow

Publication Date:
3rd November 1984



(Who’s Afraid Of?) The Art Of Noise! (ZTT)

FIRST: A disclaimer. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone at NME wished ZTT well. I regarded ABC as one of the more horrible aspects of ‘82 and thus prophesied the Morley-Horn enterprise would repeat that snobbish formula of megalomaniac conceit. And after being nearly beaten up by Morley for publicly pointing out Zang Tuum Tumb’s provenance in the title of a proto-Fascist war poem, (Aw, come on Mat, Paul couldn’t beat an egg - Ed.) I just knew that the fruits of this operation would taste hateful in the extreme.

Until I heard the records, that is. Those Art Of Noise 12-inches were best of all, the most comic, voluptuous, ambitious, colourful and invigorating riot-fests of megamuzak to annoy my neighbours this year. And for the most part, here they are again, interlaced with other bits and pieces, in 40-odd minutes of epic soundtrack with a brief intermission to catch your breath.

‘Who’s Afraid…’ starts modestly enough with intimations of World War Three incorporating the entire Red Army pogoing all over one’s expansive record-player. From there it buds like an orchid into confections of cheesiness and fragrant langour. Never missing an opportunity to throw a spanner into the works of a cosily established mood, the record proceeds to belabour with a thrilling contrast in grandiosity and loopiness in a manner of supreme confidence despite, or perhaps because, it is concocting mixes and shades of exhilaration hitherto unheard by human ears.

Of special delight are puckish allusions to The Who’s teenage wasteland heroism, The Avengers’ ‘60s vintage car kitsch, jingles and Eurodisco melancholia (yes!). By nodding towards familiar remembered musics, Art Of Noise amazingly recapture the originals’ thrill, their perversely incongruous setting and juxtapositions throwing new light onto old memories. And through it all, the beat goes on, and on, and on, and on. Yes, you not only can, but will dance to the hip-hop electro-fication of skull-hammering big bass drum.

Best of all, though, ‘Moments In Love’, a tune written, played, produced and recorded in an ersatz paradise, swathing the lonesome voice of a Pablo-style melodica in vast shimmering clouds of delicious sadness. Not just lost in music, baby, but actually melting into its very fabric. A pleasure dome and a treasure trove: all artful noise is here. Enjoy it.

- Mat Snow

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