This record has had me alternating between loving and hating it in equal measure over the past three weeks or so, which I guess might please Negativland on some levels. They’ve effectively destabilized my listening routine, forcing me to re-notice things that have I’ve consciously avoided, questioning how I engage with my records, re-confirmed the reality of my role at work where profit and growth are essential and people are ultimately expendable.
When IHeartNoise suggested True False for review I’ll admit I’d completely forgotten about Negativland (despite owning some in the 80s). The significance of this emerged when I listened to it for the first time on the way to work the following Monday. After a short prelude, Limbo the first track proper starts and within seconds I’m told ‘You’ve worked for the Contra Costa County Central Sanitary District for 15 years and they’ve just let you go’. No one needs this sort of reality on the way to work, especially if they have experience of being let go. The worker in the track has been cut off as effectively as I cut Negativland all those years ago. I just hadn’t realized how decisive I was about letting bands go, moving on, consigning them to the past.
The record goes on a tour of the wretched and grotesque realities that we push down to a subliminal level so that we can function each day. Consumerism, online political extremism, capitalism, alpha male dominance, corporate management bullshit, ego, expendability, media manipulation, destruction of resources and more. You can sit there, listen in enjoyment and consider to what extent you are part of the problems.
The details on this record are what make it though. The sound collages, cut up vocal samples and musical arrangements are ridiculously good. The vocals are persuasive and compelling, the choicest of samples are used, there is a therapeutic quality to them despite the content, it’s an abominable creation. On and on it goes, the persuasive sound bites deliver harsh truths set against the textural soundscapes and at times positively jaunty arrangements. It’s conscious music that requires active listening and it imposes on the room when it’s on. It demands to be listened to, you won’t put it on while you are doing the cooking or working, you’ll put it on because you want to ‘listen’ to it or it will stay on the shelf. I’m not sure of how successfully the records fits into a shared listening environment, it is without question a good record, maybe even an excellent one. Do you want it and its attendant subject matter for company on a regular basis though?
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