Paranoid Visions: Escape From the Austerity Complex – album review
Paranoid Visions: Escape From the Austerity Complex (Overground Records)
17th Sept (on itunes)
The new album from Dublin punk veterans Paranoid Visions not only features lots of famous guests but it’s also quite possibly the bands most accomplished of musical & political rants from their 30 year career says our man in the “very impressed indeed” corner, Ray burke.
When we want to escape the monotony of every day life, or forget the woes of recession, we might look to music as an escape, music that’s all about forgetting, a temporary release. ”ËEscape from the Austerity Complex’, Paranoid Visions third studio album since reforming in 2005, doesn’t offer that kind of relief. It’s engaging and thought provoking – social and political commentary intertwined with immense post punk. The result trumps escapism by demanding attentiveness, and total immersion.
The album clocks in at an industrious sixty nine minutes, yet never loses momentum, its a monumental, creatively ambitious album that feature guest appearances from Steve Ignorant (Crass), The Shend (Cravats), TV Smith (Adverts) and Zillah Minx from Rubella Ballet.
The band open with the agenda setting, doom laden, ”ËAusterity Crusade’ revealing their stance, it’s not about being on the outside looking at faults, its total engagement. “What have they done to my nation”Â The marching band drumming and strings suggests a walk into battle. Continuing with the theme, ”ËOn the Run’, lest we forget, is a reminder that it’s not us that are responsible for the failings of society. Wealth exists, stashed away, to enslave people into poverty.
”ËOutside Artist’ is a defiant admittance to a life in pursuit of punk ideals, resigned to be on the outside of things commercially, but revelling in the freedom of it. The juxtaposition of TV Smith and Deko’s vocals works wonderfully. The chorus is completely exuberant, an outstanding declaration. Musically it’s rich too, with its addictive opening riff to compliment TV Smith’s passionate vocal. Those not aware of the bands recent output are usually able to belt out the chorus of ”ËPolitician’. Initially on hearing this new version on the ”ËDer Election EP’ (Irish only release) it sounded wrong. That’s often the experience of hearing a reworked song; it’s not always the case that the newer version becomes the favoured. The synergy of the band is perfect, the guitars sound wicked, and the excellent drum fills and female vocals enhance the track.
”ËPoles Apart’ is the second track to feature a special guest, this time round its Zillah Minx (Rubella Ballet) on the spoken word intro. The track name befits the bands characteristic ability to create a diverse sound, an aspect totally intact on ”ËAusterity’. They continue to work in an unrestrained way, but never has it been so coherent. Everything fits. Thematically it’s well thought out, and each track is conceptually connected. ”ËAll Systems Go”Â is linked to ”ËPoles Apart’ in more ways than simply following it; it employs the same inventive sampling of Sidney Lumet’s Howard Beale, whose revelations on the media are still as relevant as ever. The track plays like the manifesto for the album, and the band. “To the bastards to hold us, it’s all systems go”Â
The Shend’s roar introduces ”ËStatement (of Intent)’ and it is built around a throbbing bass-line, and perfectly punctuated percussion. Throughout the album the rhythm section offers a strong backbone that allows the varied guitars to twist and turn around it, creating assorted and shifting atmospheres on each number.
Lyrically the album is exceptional. It’s political but never preachy and excels in straight forward intelligence. Deko doesn’t live vicariously through anyone; he’s not writing stories of blue collar workers like Springsteen to highlight social unbalance. He’s relaying it through living it. He spits venom, and disdain in a wholly distinctive way, his voice is varied, a vitriolic discharge, a meditative snarl, and a signalling growl. Singers Famine RelAoife and K Sarah Sarah have been given much more space to breath on this album, evident on several tracks, like the repetition of lines on ”ËStatement’ – speeding up in tandem with the percussion until it reaches a crescendo. The boundless extent of their voices has never been more evident, especially later on tracks such as ”ËProblem’ and the haunting build up to the end of ”ËTainted Ink’.
”ËDangerous Rhythm’ has a great guitar intro, a riff that runs through the song, fitting for this state of nation address that evokes our right to revolution, a track to to draw you out on to the street to protest. Steve Ignorant runs through ”ËSplit Personality’ at break neck speed in his own identifiable way, and when Deko, Aoife and Sarah’s vocals kick in it makes for a great sing along chorus. The guitar is infectious too, and a reminder that the guitar playing on ”ËAusterity’ is pretty dazzling, proof that if you’re playing together for a long time, you might become accidental authorities. The fantastic whispering vocal effects at the end of the track reinforce the subject matter too.
The opening samples on bass heavy ”ËTainted Ink’ betrays where you think the track is headed, it’s an unsympathetic nod to the press, those that push it, and those that feed it. The longer tracks are offset with short numbers like the post-punk ”ËRising Tide’ which still maintain the experimental pursuit inherent in the more extravagant numbers. ”ËDon’t let the rot set in’ opens with what maybe an Islamic prayer, before kicking into a powerful statement of national dissatisfaction that counteracts the clichÃÂ© of the welcoming Irish.
The influence of Burgess’s ”ËA Clockwork Orange’ runs through ”ËBeatenhoven’s Symphony’, with its agitation, humour, and lasting imagery. The hardcore inspired ”ËProblem’ accomplishes much in its 50 second intense run through, reinforcing not just that diversity again, but that the band can have such mastery over the styles they attempt.
”ËNuclear Victims (Bombsong)’ is almost unrecognisable from its previous, much earlier incarnation, although it has the same punk/metal influence. The new version benefits from the overhaul. The Orwell sample is fitting, the public’s ability to believe something we know to be untrue runs through the album. Testimony to their effectiveness,.O Steo Path’s inventive use of samples give weight to tracks, and create conceptual footprints.
The overall production is extremely considered, songs are augmented by being elaborated on in the studio. This is particularly evident on closer ”ËRecession Klub’ which first appeared as a live track on the ”ËDer-Election EP’. The full extent of its power is manifest here. The layered sound, meandering, experimental playing, and vocals make for a hypnotic listen. The wailing cries of the female vocals are especially integral to the overall atmosphere. It is foreboding, scathing brilliance.
Media coverage of news, government propaganda, and our anodyne daily lives can all seem unbearably cyclical, enough to make you complacent and cynical about the world, which in turn becomes a factor in accepting it. Discontent and defiance are our adversaries, and this our soundtrack. Paranoid Vision’s anger is not fallacy, it’s not voyeurism. It is apt social confrontation, to not assimilate, and acknowledge the transparency of the lies we are fed, absorb the truth, and ignore the invention. The band’s appeal has always lain in their erratic diversity, transcending genres within punk, and beyond, with ”ËAusterity’ that’s fully manifest. It’s a creative hot pot of fully realised ideas, a coherent and thoroughly satisfying listen, and after 30 years, a career high.
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All words by Ray Burke. You can read more from Ray on LTW here.