The first time I heard anything by Consolidated was an old 1990 episode of MTV’s 120 Minutes. Their video for “This Is A Collective” was odd enough to stick with me, although at the time I neither got it nor liked it. Consolidated was melding of hip-hop and industrial rock that seemed incredibly fake coming out of two white guys in black berets and Ray-Bans. Can anyone say Public Enemy wannabes?
The next time I heard something by Consolidated, I would never have guessed that it was the same band. Primarily, this was because the lyrics were sung by females (The Yeastie Girls) and the song (“You Suck”) was a funny gender-flip on oral sex in which the women rapping the song were demanding that men reciprocate. Not only was it an off-beat topic for Consolidated, but it was being played in a club due to its high level of dancability (and because any song about sex is going to be a club hit).
Giving Tikkun Survivor Demos a try was not supposed to be very enjoyable. I know enough about Consolidated now to know that they’re a San Fransisco Bay Area band who wear their politics on their sleeves like Boy Scout badges. I’m all for political rock, but the heavy-handed socialism and consumer culture backlash of Consolidated have created a sense of oppression in me in the past. Not the oppression of my society, as the band would like to see it, but the oppression of a standard of living that is narrow, restrictive, and imminently politically correct.
Tikkun was an eye opener. If I had known that “Tikkun” is Hebrew for “heal” before I received the disc and the press kit, I would have jumped for the disc faster. This is the kind of album that allows a band to express itself more dynamically. While the majority of Consolidated’s previous efforts have focussed on political, cultural, and gender inequity, this album offer a chance for redemption.
There’s still plenty for Consolidated to be pissed off about. Don’t get me wrong. The central themes of this album are the effects of male violence against women, domestic abuse, capitalist sanctioned degradation, sexual abuse and molestation, gangs, drugs, and all the things that have fueled the polemical messages of Consolidated since their formation. Some of these songs are typical fare for the band. For instance, “The Chickens Have Come Home To Roost” features such uplifting lyrics as, “Daddy what were trees like she would ask me as we’d ride our bikes/ Past a store owned by the Christian Reich and a billboard that says ‘Be like Mike’”.
On “Behold The Power Of Cheese,” the band trips through every fear of corporate domination in a postmodern information society that you could conceive of. The rap becomes heavy and almost feels like you’re being hit in the head with a brick as you hear: “Liberal claims and lofty aims just fifth grade games still it maims/ Let’s just say I work for the bank corporate think tank high on Nazi crank.” The song is punctuated by a scrambled burst of noise that ostensibly says “monoculture” and the theme-line of the song is “I still use music to resist the grip of capitalism’s rule.” Ouch. The final track is more of the Consolidated some have grown to love. Named “Sex Work,” it simply repeats the phrase of title, punctuated with bursts of “Work Makes You Free/ Arbeit Macht Frei.”
But then there are the tracks like “Impermanence,” “Falling Through You,” “Chemo,” and “For David.” Although they are only slightly less heavy-handed than the more overtly political tracks, it seems that songwriter Adam Sherburne has finally found something of the human element to add to the music. For instance, the album is dedicated to the memory of Patti Sherburne, whom if “Impermanence” is an indicator, might be Adam’s deceased mother. The song is a beautiful, soul and R&B eulogy that would touch anyone who’s lost a loved one. “Falling Through You” contains that same soul and R&B element, and really turns out to be a beautiful love song that can express feelings of honor and respect for women, something that Sherburne obviously feels is lacking in mainstream culture.
Actually, it’s the musical elements that seem to have finally come together to give rise to the sense of hope and healing that this album is meant to convey. It’s still heavy at times, it still goes through its moments of industrial noise, but the more funk-intensive sound compliments the humanity of the disc elegantly. There’s even a more sympathetic album design, put together of childrens’ drawings with crayons and photos evoking innocent times. There’s even a Crayola heart that adorns both the back of the cardboard disc jacket and the disc itself.
This is Consolidated?
I would have given it a higher rating if the album had a consistent sense of purpose but the inclusion of the hard hitting tracks actually deteriorated what might have been an impressive arrangement of R&B, rock, soul, and techno synthesis. It may not have been typical Consolidated, but they’ve proven with this disc that not being typical might be a good thing for them.