Ever heard of Keith LeBlanc?
Perhaps your answer is, “yes”; even so, most would answer “no”, that they have no idea who Keith LeBlanc is. Of course rattle off a small subset of the artists LeBlanc has done work with, and it’s likely more than a few lightbulbs will go off. Try Grandmaster Flash, Annie Lennox, Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, The Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, Peter Gabriel, Living Colour, and Ministry on for size. Yet, no matter how many bands and artists he works with, no matter how many hits and platinum records he has his hands in, he still flies under the radar.
I mean, this guy was playing drums on “The Message”! How cool is that?!
Stop the Confusion (Global Interference) is a compilation that attempts to summarize the work LeBlanc has done in the music industry over the course of the last 25 years, compressing it into 19 highly varied, uniformly impressive tracks. While it hardly serves as a greatest hits of the projects the man’s been involved with (you’d need a multi-artist compilation to put that together), it does highlight many of the most important works that LeBlanc has been the driving force behind, particularly as part of Adrian Sherwood’s On-U collective. Stop the Confusion serves as proof that LeBlanc was a fascinating musical mind who could do more than hold his own with his contemporaries at any point in what has become a long, illustrious career. Even so, it doesn’t exactly work as an album, trying to be too much all at once, summarizing too many eras and too many styles. The myriad left turns that take place in a track-to-track listen makes trying to get through the entire album a difficult task, strength of the material notwithstanding.
The front end of the disc is loaded up with some of LeBlanc’s older work, or at least stuff that sounds like older work. Case in point: “What Order” is a track from 1996, not even 10 years old, but the combination of P-funk-style backing vocals, a dated hip-hop beat (complete with rock guitars), and Melle Mel of all people doing a solid bit of rapping, it sounds like it easily could have come from the mid-‘80s. In a way, it’s refreshing to hear such a solid old-school sound. Still, the old-school keeps on coming with tracks like “The Beast” and “Green Theory”, both collaborations with vocalist Bim Sherman, followed by an odd little DJ Spike tune which may well have sampled its beat from Snap’s “The Power”. None of the tracks are near the quality of “What Order”, but they’re listenable and fun in their cheesy ways.
Then, of course, there is the other end of the spectrum—LeBlanc has spent a lot of time with Trent Reznor in the last 10 years, you didn’t think we’d get away with not hearing anything that touched the more, uh, industrial side of LeBlanc’s work, did you? On the contrary, we get things like “Tree”, a heretofore unreleased nugget with the late Andy Fairley that features lots of screamed vocals, a tribal beat, and guitars that sound as though they’re lifted from a Ministry track circa 1991. It’s brutal, but compelling in the way a violent car crash is. Less violent, but still showing up on the industrial end of the spectrum are “Steps”, a Keith LeBlanc solo joing, and the also-unreleased “React Like This”, a machine-like stomp that recalls the Wax Trax heyday of the mid-‘80s.
There are some wonderful unreleased Tackhead tunes for the hip-hop lovers, and LeBlanc even lets loose with his atmospheric side on the peaceful, vaguely tropical solo track “Steps”. Most important in its inclusion, however, is the title track. “Stop the Confusion” is actually a remixed version of “No Sell Out”, a track LeBlanc originally released in 1983 under the wonderfully ballsy moniker of Malcolm X. The track is supposedly the first one ever to build an entire song out of samples, and the entire vocal line is done using pieced-together bits of the real Malcolm X’s speeches. Happily, it has a great beat, too, so it’s worthy of inclusion for its listening value as well as its historical importance.
The impact LeBlanc has had on modern popular music is tangible and unavoidable—sampling has become an afterthought in today’s pop mainstream, and it’s hard to remember that it was once revolutionary. LeBlanc should be commended for his work, music that managed to push whatever boundaries he was interested in at any given time. Stop the Confusion (Global Interference) is exhaustive and exhausting, but if nothing else, it’s the perfect way to find a starting point as one sets off on the journey of exploring LeBlanc’s massive backcatalogue.