New Musical Express : 10 November 1984


MUZAK OF LITTLE METTLE
SPK - Machine Age Voodoo (WEA)

Until about a year ago, SPK were spoken of in the same reverent breath as metal clanging noise boys such as Test Dept and Einsturzende Neubauten. They were called radical, challenging, avant garde, disturbing, by the people who use those words as terms of the highest approval. Things have changed.
Nowadays, they're just a mildly pretentious version of Shakatak. Their first album for a major label is mundane funk, smoothly light-industrial, dressed up in some trendy totalitarian chic. To me, it sounds like an improvement - it's still awfull, but in their underground days they were literally unlistenable.
SPK - now down to a duet of New Zealander Graeme Revelle (multi-instrumentalist) and his China girl Sinan (vocals) - may well have some terribly clever theories to give to their interviewers, as to how they're really infiltrating the commercial process and poisoning the water supply and attacking bourgeois hegemony from within. They might even mean it. The record still sucks.
I was recently privileged to attend a gathering of US record executives in New York. One of these wise men was heard to declare that American music buyers respond to just two things: one is dancing, the other is sex. Nothing else counts, the rest is just talk. For this reason, SPK were seen as one of WEA's most inspired new signings: good looking chick, for the visual marketing, mechanical disco beat for the boppers. Perfect. Perhaps it was felt the band's trappings would keep the critics happy as well.
Personally, all the group's fashionable gabble - "we are aesthetic terrorists" - leaves some place between scepticism and contempt. And from 'Metal Dance' (the single that first met mutterings of "sell out" among their devotees in the headache-a-gogo set) to the club-foot hip-hop of 'High Tension' (Sinan's singing is utterly colourless, very insipid) there's not one track to persuade me otherwise.
SPK's music has dropped its drone and clang and tape-loop trickery, to be replaced by yer average '84 electro mush. No wonder the group's American backers excite themselves with eager sales talk about "a new Thompson Twins situation". Could be they've just drop the biggest clanger of all.

Paul Du Noyer


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