Cabaret Voltaire - #8385 (Collected Works 1983-1985)

It wants you

In the mid-80s, arch industrial pioneers
Cabaret Voltaire took a surprising turn:
out with the sandblasted old, in with the
modernist, populist new. Spread across six
CDs, four LPs, and two DVDs, #8385 offers
an extensive audio-visual survey of this
second phase of the band’s career.

We start with The Crackdown, the band’s
fourth studio album, and the first they made
after the departure of founding member
Chris Watson (who took up a job at Tyne
Tees Television) and a move from Rough
Trade to Virgin (via Stevo’s Some Bizarre
imprint). As the roles of the remaining duo
became more starkly defined – Stephen
Mallinder front and centre on vocals and
lyrics, Richard H Kirk at the back behind an
arsenal of emerging technology – so too did
the music, characterised here by the
staccato economy of 24-24 and the urgency
of Why Kill Time. 1984’s Micro-Phonies
offered a further refinement, with Sensoria
and the suitably funky James Brown finding
singles success, and the likes of Slammer
and Spies In The Wires more than a match
for any electro-pop of the time.

Both albums hold up well today, as does
1985’s The Covenant, The Sword, And The
Arm Of The Lord, even if it is marked a little,
in hindsight, by the tension between a band
in pursuit of art and a label anxious to
continue a run of hits (I Want You being the
resulting compromise). Alongside the three
full-length albums, #8385 also includes the
Doublevision and Drinking Gasoline EPs,
a collection of 12” A- and B-sides, and
a disc of music for the aborted Earthshaker
film project.

Film, of course, was integral to the
CabVol aesthetic – the Sensoria video, one
of many collaborations with filmmaker Peter
Care, was famously one of the first music
videos to be shown in New York’s Museum
Of Modern Art – and there’s much to pore
over here, including two full live sets from
1984 and the experimental patchwork
collection Gasoline In Your Eye. Get ready to
have your earth shaken.  

4 stars 4 stars 4 stars 4 stars

Mute | CABS 21 (6CD+4LP+2DVD)

Reviewed by Tom Seabrook
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