Australian quintet Total Control features members of Eddy Current Suppression Ring and UV Race, and makes a racket that calls to mind Suicide, Cabaret Voltaire, Devo, and Joy Division. Opening with the dark and pulsating “See More Glass” and closing with the noise-driven freak out “Love Performance”, Henge Beat reminds us that although we should beware the darkness we can’t avoid it entirely; in fact, sometimes the darkness is exactly what we need.
There’s plenty of punk aggression to be found via tracks such as the bashing “Retiree”, which sounds like early Misfits recorded, not in a New Jersey dungeon, but in a well-lit California studio. Both it and the equally aggressive “No Bibs” also recall the glorious cyber metal originated by the mighty Voivod. The dashes of thoughtful and subtle electronic dreams with the tweeting keyboards of “Sunday Baker” give us a dash of retro fever as we long for the sweet smell of an early ‘80s arcade while coming down from an all night Roger Corman and Robitussin bender.
The King Crimson-tinged “Shame Thugs” is the afterglow of a long winter’s nap and each of those strategically placed shorter numbers offer remarkable counterpoint to the more industrial-minded material such as the Joy Division-inspired “The Hammer” (like tasting your own blood on the dance floor) and the Sonic Youth-cum-Can-cum-Television romp “Carpet Rash”, nearly seven minutes of furious fur-raising froth, destined to make at least one lad somewhere in the world buy a Fender guitar, an amp, and start building an impressive guitar sound on a shoestring budget.
“One More Tonight” is sheer early ‘80s aggression, the throbbing sounds of industry and frustration and white knuckles tightened and raised against the tireless onslaught of conformity – it’s also trashy and haunting, no less intellectually charged for being openly rock and rolling. “Stonehenge” is two minutes of herky-jerky, brain-bashing mediocrity that transcends its own shortcomings and banality to become a perfectly placed bit of whack. If none of those things, not one of those contradictions, or sharply focused observations on the sheer delightful detours found on this record, don’t convince you, then perhaps nothing will. That said, if you need to be convinced to have a good time, then Total Control is probably not the record for you.
So what are we to make of all of this – and what are we to make of this epilogue in which yours truly attempts to persuade you that although Henge Beat isn’t the album of the ages, it may be an album of the ages? Well, that’s up to, as per usual, you, you see. But this writer sees and hears untapped potential in this lot – the promise that more good things could come from these five getting back into the studio. Then again, if this were kept as a simple one-off and Total Control never again worked together, then that would just add more mystique to that which is already shrouded in mystery.