Atari Teenage Riot: 60 Second Wipe Out (Digital Hardcore)

There’s A Riot Going On… and On

BERLIN CALLING on line one. Something to do with revolution and anarchy and the “wickedest stench“. Oh yes, dear, and they also want to “take over your fucking life”.

Album number three from Alec Empire’s Atari Teenage Riot, then, and patently not the one where they announce a hitherto undeclared love of cuddly ballads. With Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna and Fear Factory’s Dino Cazares as guest noise-mongers, 60 Second Wipe Out (which comes with a bonus live CD) sees them barking as loudly and balefully as before, sticking with those perma-frosty countenances in the vain hope that soon the capitalist-culling ruckus to which they aspire will explode all over the western world. And, hey, if a few saucer-eyed ravers get zapped in the process, that will be better still.

Trouble is, much as Empire may hate Ecstasy and the mollifying effect he believes it’s had on his generation, listening to ATR is much like munching E. First E/track: magic stuff; an exhilarating rush of madness. Thirteenth E/track: felt this before; can we do something else now? Entertaining the idea of listening to ATR’s feverish stew of unkind beats and bilious lyricism is therefore considerably more fun than actually doing so. This, in turn, is why their music makes for the oddest of coffee table accessories: more often examined than played in most households.

That’s not to say there aren’t rabid thrills to be had amid the deviancy of ‘The Death Of A President DIY!’, ‘By Any Means Necessary’ and ‘Your Uniform (Does Not Impress Me!)’. In particular, ATR have a masterful way with terrain-scorching guitar moves on this album, dispatching tightly-coiled riffs like Motorhead rushing to get a gig finished. Yet rarely are the grizzled punk stylings sufficiently reconstructed to have ATR successfully vying for space on the stereo against Asian Dub Foundation or — it’s been a bit quiet on the agit-prop front lately — Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back.

Actually, ATR do a fine job of holding themselves back: three albums into their ‘revolution’ and they’re still banging away with the kind of churlish, cartoon militia political incantations which only those living in anarcho-cuckooland could treat as anything but a short-lived source of amusement. Ultimately, there’s no more sense to be gleaned here than from the Prodigy’s gibberings. And, upon scratching away the current Digital Hardcore-oriented hoopla, a lot less in the way of truly incendiary sonics.

Berlin is calling again. But you might want to think twice before picking up.

© Andy CrysellNew Musical Express, 8 May 1999

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