The Fall Middle Class Revolt
by John Howard
Middle Class Revolt is an extremely varied album, one that seems to both consolidate the techno gains of Code:Selfish and Infotainment Scan and leave them behind. There are three(!) covers, and a larger quota of "pop" songs. 15 Ways and Reckoning have qualities that could be called "pretty," with acoustic guitars and fairly traditional structures. On the other hand it has some truly tweaked moments such as the version of the Groundhogs' "Junk Man," which has a hilarious grunted vocal line as well as the welcome reappearance of kazoo. "Symbol Of Mordgan" is John Peel and Craig Scanlon discussing soccer while a surf band plays in the background. The ending of that song features what sounds like a snippet of Metal Machine Music! "Surmount All Obstacles" is yet another fine Fall garage techno classic as are "M5#1" and "City Dweller." Vocally, Smith definitely has his swerve on, flowing in and around the beat with an astonishing assurance, more so than usual to these ears. Lyrically, it does not have an overriding theme, but each song is well developed. "Hey! Student" is a lovely rant aimed at, ummm, students and features namechecks for both Pearl Jam and Shaun Ryder; many of the other songs focus on attacking complacency. Their version of Henry Cow's "War" is a highlight with it's ascending riff and wonderful violent lyrics and throbbing rhythm. Inchoate anger gets the final word in the form of the Monks' "Shut Up", a pounding hunk of garage rock that finishes the album.
Rhythmically, the album really moves, maintaining a full forward momentum. "M5#1" and "Surmount All Obstacles" use a techno approach, while "War" and "Middle Class Revolt" use tribal drums to create a swirling, propulsive sound. The guitars are generally more garage-y and the overall sound of the album is a lot scrappier and stripped down than its immediate predecessor Infotainment Scan, with the electronic touches used as flourishes, rather than being the centerpiece of the sound. Sonically this album is a lot more open than Info and seems to point in the noisier and looser direction the band headed in on Cerebral Caustic and Light User Syndrome.
This variety makes it an ideal Fall album to introduce the band to neophytes. The experimentation rarely comes at the expense of the musicality and there is a high quotient of melodies. It also means that it is not a special album, just a good one. Honestly, there is not a ton to say about MCR. It is yet another excellent bunch of songs, and, while not being a major Fall "statement" on the level of Hex, This Nation's, Dragnet or Infotainment Scan (or the recent Levitate for that matter), it is a lot of fun to listen to, contains some certifiable Fall classics, some great unpredictable covers and an overall feeling of a confident band, able to do whatever it puts its mind to.
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