808 State: Town and Country Club, London

THE COMPUTER-DRIVEN orchestral score that is Moby’s opening gambit comes as a blessed relief. After two hours of beat-fascism courtesy of the hardcore DJ that you have to be in chemical-orbit to endure the sight of, this decidedly crazy New Yorker bouncing up and down and agitating the crowd is one for sore eyes. He has a well-trained ear for melody as well, so every bump and grind and beat displacement takes on a new meaning.

“This next song is a religious song. I’d like to dedicate it to Jesus Christ. If you don’t like that, f–off!” says the former pop star and hardcore punk freak who is still in danger of being remembered for his adaptation of the Twin Peaks theme, ‘Go’, played tonight in a revamped and re-energised monster techno groove format.

In his quest to take the genre beyond the limiting clutches of bedroom dabblers, he throws in disembodied gospel voices, only occasionally indulging in weird noises for the sake of it (one song sounds like people rioting), and ends up looking like a determined individual thrown in at the deep end of a faceless world.

One of 808 State’s solutions to encroaching facelessness has been to present themselves as an easily identifiable corporate unit. The other has been to draft in various capable vocalists like The Sugarcubes’ Bjork – who doesn’t sing tonight – to front their mixed and varied bag of electronically warped dance sounds. And, apart from the still elegant ‘Pacific State’, a startling ‘In Yer Face’ and an extremely aggressive version of ‘Cubik’ featuring Graham Massey on screeching sub-metal guitar, it’s the guest vocalists who stop 808 State from plunging into esoteric twiddly-twiddly hell.

When Caroline Seaman (from This Mortal Coil) appears to add her slightly Eastern and often wordless vocal to a song, the crowd react positively to the meeting of indie and techno. A gospel duo apply soaring acrobatics to a sizzling beat construction and highlight how 808 State pay respect to black music.

Robert Owens shows why he’s become regarded as the golden tonsils of house by wrapping his soulful larynx around The Rolling Stones’ ‘Gimme Shelter’ and the UB40 vocal sample that percolates over a bassline lifted from Kraftwerk’s ‘The Model’ makes ‘One In Ten’ resonate as a sympathetic look at the plight of the unemployed. And to, cap it all, Ian McCulloch does a star-turn by murmuring I don’t want nobody but you over and over again while a cigarette dangles precariously from his fingers.

808 State put on a lovely laser show and put the blood back in the music whenever Andy isn’t busy playing MC and haranguing the crowd in an attempt to fill Martin Price’s shoes. They sidestep Manchester issues, keep their heads up in times of knotted strife, and show few signs of relinquishing their hard-earned mantle.

© Dele FadeleNew Musical Express, 6 March 1993

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