Music

Various Artists: Metal Dance 2

Front 242

The subtitle, "Industrial, New Wave, & EBM Classics & Rarities 1981-1988" pretty much says it all. Except for the "classics" part.


Various Artists

Metal Dance 2

Label: Strut
US Release Date: 2013-10-01
UK Release Date: 2013-09-30
Amazon
iTunes

Like its predecessor, Metal Dance 2 presents a wide, globe-spanning selection of harder-edged electronic music from the 1980s. It also suffers from the same shortcomings as its predecessor. British DJ Trevor Jackson has again dug up some true obscurities and mixed these with tracks by some more recognizable names. But Metal Dance 2 also sacrifices quality for scope and breadth. It presents a lot of different artists, sounds, and aspects of what can loosely be called early "industrial" music. But it's not the best of anything.

You can go into an antique shop and find many curios that are old and truly rare. But being old and rare does not automatically make for a collector's item, or even something you might want to pay a few bucks for. Too much of Metal Dance 2 has that same feel. It's old and sometimes unique, but those traits only add up to a dated, musty sound that you might want to window shop but would be hard-pressed to take home.

Sometimes the most obvious answer is the best one. If you take Occam's razor to the complex, often obscure history of early electronica and "industrial" music, you'll find the most obvious names really did make the best music. Some of those names are featured on the two-disc, 27-track Metal Dance 2, but not enough of them. When they do appear, they're not represented with their best music. Skinny Puppy's "Deadlines" captures the band's trademark snarling synths, punishing drum machines, and Nivek Ogre's rhythmic sneering. It's not exactly one of Skinny Puppy's classics, though. For many folks, Ministry are the defining industrial act, and they were one of few to find a degree of mainstream success. Again, though, the extended remix of "Over the Shoulder", with its jackhammer drums and Al Jourgensen's tongue-in-cheek falsetto, is solid but neither outstanding nor definitive.

The genius of German synth group Propaganda was their ability to combine primal industrial noise with sophisticated pop melodies. Sadly, that alchemy does not come across on the mostly-instrumental, sax-laced remix of "Frozen Faces". Most grossly misrepresented are classic Belgian act Front 242. A dull, repetitive mix of "Body 2 Body" conveys little of the cleverness, menace, or catchiness the band were known for. The problem with these selections may be that in trying to feature more obscure works, Jackson has done everyone a disservice by sacrificing quality and creating an incomplete picture. Or, possibly, Jackson and his label simply could not license these bands' true classics, some of which appeared on major labels.

With the "big names" failing to deliver, you hope Metal Dance 2 can at least offer some interesting material from less well-known acts. On those terms, it's still a mixed bag. "Driving Blind" from Throbbing Gristle veterans Chris & Cosey is kinetic and edgy. Psyche's "The Saint Became A Lush" takes the idea behind John Carpenter's anxious Halloween theme and adds the requisite pulsing synth-bass, big drums, and ominous synths. Tracks like the Mile High Club's "Walking Backwards" and Neon's "Lobotomy" demonstrate how industrial and "electronic body music" were influencing synth pop and what would soon become "techno", and vice-versa.

The clutch of experimental tracks from European acts like Esplendor Geometrico, Conrad Schnitzler, and Plus Instruments mostly fall flat. They range from somewhat interesting to laughably dated and intolerable, and often sound like they snuck in from a Krautrock compilation. One rarity is "Riot Squad" from Vice Versa, an early version of the pop band ABC. Disappointingly, it's a straight rip off of either Cabaret Voltaire or the Normal. Speaking of omissions, of course some are expected. But Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, who are credited with coining the term "industrial", Einstürzende Neubauten, DAF, and other key names are all missing. This wouldn't be such a big deal if their places were taken by better material.

"Industrial", "New Wave", and "EBM" are all fairly vague, broad terms. Like the first volume, Metal Dance 2 is a nice primer on the signature sounds of these kinds of music. But for the best of the music itself, you would be better off with many of the artist or label-specific compilations that are around. All in all, the best, most interesting thing on Metal Dance 2 is "Babies", a b-side from the British pop act Godley & Creme, who have little to do with anything Metal Dance 2 is ostensibly about. That shouldn't happen.

5
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

A Lesson from the Avengers for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Music

How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.

Music

Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Music

Paul Weller Dazzles with the Psychedelic and Soulful 'On Sunset'

Paul Weller's On Sunset continues his recent streak of experimental yet tuneful masterworks. More than 40 years into his musical career, Weller sounds as fresh and inspired as ever.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.