Melody Maker
Ian Pye

Publication Date:
20th November 1984




FORGET for a moment the feigned descriptions of music, let me tell you simply that this is the most exciting, addictive and ludicrous record to be released since the last record of the same qualities came out, and when that was I cannot remember. Paul Morley, the mouthpiece of Art Of Noise, promised us the world as usual, a master at building expectation just for the hell of it, but his lofty rhetoric has actually been fulfilled in the most dramatic way. “Who’s Afraid Of The Art Of Noise” is brilliant - without it you will be incomplete.

The Art Of Noise are Trevor Horn, Anne Dudley, J. J. Jeczalik and Gary Langan. Already their music is big in America, riding the hip hop wave, tearing the clubs apart, beating the grand mixers at their own game. But this isn’t just a heavy dance record for the street - it’s much more.

It begins with a found speech against imperialism and with great irony proceeds to plunder pop’s trivial debris, stealing anything they need but creating beauty from junk; culture’s trash recycled, refashioned into something altogether more thrilling. “A Time For Fear (Who’s Afraid)” sounds like some malign marching band, tutonic images of bleak clockwork soldiers roll past into Sixties muzak and a last gasp of melancholy.

“Beat Box (Diversion One)” lets drum beats crash like metal behind a bass line that collapses wonderously before the Fairlight slices through everything and calls in a silly rock guitar riff that sounds as if it was always meant to be there. Treated staccato vocals bark out a brittle melody that appears not of this world. “Liquid Sky” offers a nightmare and comic movie vision of desperate New York.

For “Snapshot” they celebrate the Who turned grandiose, all organ pipes and big chords while “Close (To The Edit)” defies gravity, induces hyper activity and really is utterly compelling.

The title itself, a light relief of a sort, and “Moments In Love”, christened this way by Salvador Morley after his compatriots had the audacity and fate to capture such exquisite emotions. This is an epic track and probably deserves to be. It’s Trevor Horn playing around with the systems music of Terry Riley and ZTT composer Andrew Poppy. The results are moving, tinged with sadness, perhaps the album’s one really serious piece.

“Who’s Afraid Of The Art Of Noise” finishes with two dashes of impressionistic colour; here the privacy of “Moments” holds out against the drone of combat and similarly ugly intrusions.

It might be easier to list what you can’t find on this LP than what you can. It’s funny, touched with spontaneous invention, troubled by the sounds of a dark Metropolis, spurred on by the true spirit of surrealism - it shocks and reveals - and what’s more it all works.


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