808 State: Brixton Academy, London

WHILE Manchester’s club culture is rent asunder by rave-dazed apathy and internecine drug wars, the bands that made the scene move on. Happy Mondays are conquering the globe, the Stone Roses plan a new record deal and 808 State come south to show they are the missing link between hedonism and humility.

Where Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses rely on self-aggrandising rock lore, 808 State are a real club-rooted band lurking behind keyboards and revelling in their anonymity. Their show, however successful, is little more than an intermezzo between the serious business of dancing to records. The audience are here to flex limbs — the flesh and blood band are incidental.

Yet 808 State has much to offer, taking their name from the latest studio gizmo and their music from anywhere they fancy. Tracks like ‘In Yer Face’ and ‘Cubik’ rip the raw heart out of Kraftwerk’s Teutonic electro-angst and graft it on to the molten throb of Chicago house styles, while ‘The Only Rap That Bites’, which features self-styled motormouth MC Tunes, samples liberally from the theme to The Big Country.

MC Tunes is the only guest tonight, New Order’s Bernard Sumner and Iceland’s Björk Gudmundsdottir, who sang on the excellent album ex:el are both absent. Fortunately the quartet’s musical brio is sharp enough to pull it off with a little help from a battery of lasers.

Club culture continues to stall and jerk forward, much in the same way that many of 808 State’s songs tend to stop then re-ignite, and the media hype might have moved on to Liverpool and Bristol, but the art of the State proves that there is life after Madchester.

© Bruce DessauThe Guardian, 15 April 1991

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