30 December 2004

Martin Rev's Steam Hammers


Martin Rev tends to get overpowered in Suicide. Alan Vega's always high in the mix, an alpine Elvis fixating endlessly on Jerry Lee Lewis's teen brides and cough mixture addictions and, while I have nothing against Alan, his voice has the effect of making the music fade into wallpaper (after all, there's plenty of cracks to fill). Focus in on Martin Rev's keyboards, surely one of the most gut-wrenchingly original and immediately identifiable sounds in rock n roll, and you can open up new wounds.

I mean, America never really got the 'industrial' soundwave did it? Whereas Throbbing Gristle and their immediate peers tapped into the very heartbeat of society and managed to sound it out - the clunk of Tesco trolleys, the spin of metal machines, the canalside strangulations - American bands never really managed to identify their own urban soundforms, at least not in the same way.

Even in the second wave, Europe had the motorway maintenance of Neubauten or the folkloric tribal communions of Test Dept or the noise-as-bliss of Whitehouse (Japan, of course, went the way of Merzbow) but America's industrial angles never really got going, at least until the pop and sampled fizz of Negativland (typical that the USA went immediately to Go in terms of recognising the Media as the main driving source of capitalism). Now, I'm not suggesting that America necessarily needed to 'get' industrial, just that it's slightly odd that such an Industrial power didn't latch on immediately.

But then I thought of Martin Rev.

He took Lou Reed's famous rock and roll definition to heart:

"One chord is fine. Two chords are pushing
it. Three chords and you're into jazz."

And then saw what you could do with no chords at all.

Listen to Suicide's early stuff and you realise that Rev understood perfectly the throbbing heart of American industry. Listen to his solo albums and it becomes even clearer: the machines are rolling, pulsing, beating metal into cultural shapes. It's railroad music, urban blues, the sound of neck snapping hard work. Listen to 'Baby Oh Baby". His singing is way back in the mix, subdued, almost plaintive. A lovelorn redneck trying to woo over the steam hammers. The music is textured grey, just like TG.

This is America's industrial.

Martin Rev - Baby Oh Baby

Martin Rev - In Your Arms


GTTRBRKZ said...

Oi, I'm the bloody Suicide expert 'round here, matey!!
Still, a begrudging 'well done' for highlighting Mr. Rev's talents.

The nearest thing to an 'industrial culture' in the US must be the San Fran scene that emerged in the late 70s - Factrix, Boyd Rice, Chrome, Mark Pauline's violent robotic creations...but nothing quite as brutally original/mechanical as Rev.

Reckon it's time for a solo Vega post to balance things out a bit....

Loki said...

forgot about Boyd Rice...yeah, reckon he's the nearest...and cheers for reminding me of Chrome...some potential 2005 posts there...

Looking forward to your Vega post.

Happy New Year Nick!

Anonymous said...

fuck epitomic bullshit!!!!

Loki said...

It's a pity to keep crawling under anonymity when you have so much to offer... Oh, and maybe a little Anger Management / Social Skills training might be in order. New Year's Resolution perhaps?

Anonymous said...

wot does 'epitomic' mean again?

Anonymous said...

A little late to the table, but I gotta say, really, you've never heard Factrix?

The San Francisco groups -- Factrix, Chrome, Cazazza, Problemist, the early Tuxedomoon -- that is the sound of our rain-soaked nighttime abandoned industrial zones ... our landscape just sounds different to begin with.

Jim Flannery

Anonymous said...


Related Posts with Thumbnails