Cabaret Voltaire – Red Mecca (Mute)
The first of a series of Cabaret Voltaire releases starts with the iconic Red Mecca. Louder Than War’s Paul Scott-Bates was eager to review.
Thirty-two years! Count them. Thirty-two years since Red Mecca was first released. I’d like to say it sounds like only yesterday but it doesn’t. It seems a lifetime away. It seems as though Cabaret Voltaire were still testing the water for experimental industrial music, and that whilst everyone raved about how good the album was, they would soon move on and forget about it. In a well-timed move by Mute, the album heads a stream of re-released Cabs classics to have you whipping yourself up into a lather.
The final album with co-founder Chris Watson, Red Mecca, came during a period when tensions were high on the streets of Britain and it was seen as the alternative soundtrack of the time.
Opener, A Touch Of Evil, sets the scene for the album with its post industrial jazz theme, ensuring the listener is aware that this is no album for the faint hearted. There are early signs of the incisive Cabaret Voltaire drum sound and throbbing bass which would become a trademark of the band in later years as Richard H Kirk and Stephen Mallinder continued to break new ground.
The distorted, twisted vocals on Sly Doubt accompany the raw feel of the track and the introduction of electronic dub is also prevalent. In the wake of Joy Division and before the explosion of Britain’s electronic brigade of the early 80s, the Cabaret Voltaire sound unwittingly set the scene for the fellow Sheffield band The Human League with their Reproduction and Travelogue albums. Indeed their single Being Boiled could be seen as a commercial extension to what they were doing at the time.
What Kirk and Mallinder did with Red Mecca had never been done before, and, has never been done since. Modern contempories such as Portion Control clearly have a lot to thank them for, particularly on tracks like Red Mask. Does Red Mecca sound dated? Well yes, it does, but at the time it was relevant and so many things have happened in music since then, but, time doesn’t make it irrelevant, in the same way that Punk is still a milestone in British music, so is Cabaret Voltaire.
Red Mecca is an important album and should be heard by all. It precedes a mighty re-release of the groups mid-term albums from 1983-1985 due later this year and will undoubtedly re-ignite old passions. Hopefully it will also create a spark in many new ones.
All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found here. Paul’s website is hiapop Blog. Paul is working hard to save Radio Lancashire’s On The Wire, the BBCs longest running alternative music programme. Follow him on twitter as @saveonthewire for all On The Wire news or follow hiapop Blog on Twitter, @hiapop.