As far as modern music goes, Berlin’s Atari Teenage Riot are pretty unique—the only people that even resemble them are largely imitators and copycats. Nobody else can pull off such a mind-numbing aural assault of jackhammer beats, distorted guitars, fucked-up noise, and politically-charged shrieking the way they do. You didn’t listen to their last American album, Burn, Berlin, Burn!, so much as experience it; it just about forces you to move. And judging from the look of fear in the security guards’ at the Rage Against The Machine/The Roots/ATR show I caught a few years back, there are few things more terrifying than a horde of enraged kids howling “fuck all!” at the top of their lungs.
That said, 60 Second Wipeout isn’t quite more of the same, and that’s good AND bad. On the bad side, some of the album is genuinely difficult to listen to; the music’s not louder, but noisier, with more static, feedback, and just general sonic overload than before. Sometimes that’s fine, but here it wears the listener down, particularly on tracks like “Digital Hardcore,” which is little more than nearly unlistenable noise, with the beats and electronic noise all jumbled together in a food processor going full-speed puree (fans of Einstürzende Neubaten, are you listening?). Occasionally something recognizable spins out of the mess, but mostly it’s just a big screaming hell of sound.
Now, for the good side, ATR seem to’ve embraced the rap side of things more this time out, toning down the outright punk stuff a bit. “The Western Decay” wouldn’t sound all that out-of-place on a Beastie Boys album, and the same goes with “Ghost Chase.” I think that this leaning towards more of a hip-hop sound is intentional—at least, if the guest rappers on Wipeout (D-Stroy, Freestyle, Kinetics, Jise, J-Unique, and Bikini Kill/Julie Ruin indie queen Kathleen Hanna) are any indicator—and the shift is a welcome change of pace next to “Atari Teenage Riot II.” Heck, “Too Dead for Me” even hits a real-live pop moment, with a cool underlying drone-melody running throughout.
Like I said, this is a mixed bag, some good, some bad, but I’d probably still recommend it to ATR fans (although I’d suggest neophytes start with something a little less harsh). Even if the end-of-the-world sentiments of “Anarchy 999” sound like braggadocio after the fact (since hordes of Atari Teenage Riot kids didn’t storm the UN or the White House on the eve of the year 2000, despite Alec Empire and Hanin Elias’ revolutionary exhortations), the closing party-chant of “the world, the world, the world is on fire” still sounds like a credible warning of things to come.