Life’s A Cabaret, Old Chum

cabaret1As I’d been doing a fair bit of Maggie-bashing in my posts prior to her passing, I’m not going to expand upon Tom’s fitting epitaph, and will instead look northwards for inspiration to one of the towns she blighted so well.

Skank Blog Bologna celebrates its second birthday next month, and since we’ve brought forth such an eclectic mix of punky reggae pearls during these past two years, I find it strangely satisfying that we’re still able to find the odd glaring omission.

cabaret2That said, the fact that Sheffield noise pioneers Cabaret Voltaire have so far eluded an SBB appearance of any kind is pretty darned criminal, so today I have resolved to put things right.

From the word go, the band infused much of their material with echo-heavy lashings of dub – it snakes through virtually all of their early releases, from the Extended Play e.p. to 1981’s Red Mecca, even creeping into the ear-bending squall of the classic Nag Nag Nag.

cabaret3Dub influence notwithstanding however, the rules of the SBB lexicon dictate that any featured track should have a recognizable reggae sound, and last week I was reminded (via the internet airwaves of my good friend Tony Soap Co) of the trebly skank of 1979’s Silent Command.

Unusually melodic for an early CV track, Silent Command fuses the band’s peevish bedroom electronica with an upbeat organ refrain that sounds as if it’s been grafted on from an late 60s rocksteady record. Perhaps in keeping with their Dadaist prankster sensibilities CV were subverting their aggressive sound all the better to unsettle the listener. If so, it works beautifully.

cabaret4And if aural self-subversion was indeed the game, then the Cabs really pulled it off with aplomb with a radical switch to a polished commercial pop sound circa 1983. Hugely influential though their pulsing proto-industrial, proto-house may have been, and despite the iffy promise in song titles like Digital Rasta from 1984’s Micro-Phonies LP, it did sadly spell an end to their skankier investigations.

(Ed Zed)

The fabulous Talkover from their debut e.p:

And an echo-laden version of The Seeds’ No Escape:

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