After a string of singles Total Control slip out an album in the dark of night when no one is looking. Comprised mainly of the duo Daniel Stewart fromUV Race and Straightjacket Nation, Mikey Young from Eddy Current Suppression Ring and UV Race, etc. but also including Alistair Montfort, Zephyr Pavey and James Vinciguerra, the band may seem like a side project because it consists of guys moonlighting from their main bands. Discounting Total Control as a side project would be a mistake. Typical side projects contain one or two ok songs, and a bunch of experimentation or noodling. Not the case with Total Control. Their album Henge Beat is total top shelf. Here’s my track-by-track review.
See More Glass – Julian Cope said that Neu!‘s Hallogallo changed how he listened to all music. Cope went on to become obsessed with Henges, stone circles and other various and a sundry ancient monuments. Total Control skip forward to the end and kick off their debut album with a direct descendant of Hallogallo.
Retiree – The album bounces back and forth between longer motorik kraut influenced songs and shorter tense punk ones. Retiree is the latter. Singer Daniel Stewart delivers a detached angst free vocal advocating not retiring with the refrain ‘Keep them at work’, while the band lay down a maelstrom. Makes me want to never retire. Ha!
One More Night – Even the punk songs have a repetitiveness that is influenced by Krautrock. That said, this one sounds a lot like guitarist Mikey Young’s other band Eddy Current Suppression Ring. No bad thing in this neck of the woods.
The Hammer – We click back over to the motorik beats for the Hammer which leans into Kraftwerk and Gary Numan territory. The entire track is synthesized. There isn’t a guitar or live drum sound in earshot. Sublime and intense at the same time.
Stonehnage – Side one ends with this two minute punker. A sped up march with someone trying to tune in their short wave radio to listen to ancient souls that will tell of how they stood those giant stones up and why in the hell they did it.
Carpet Rash – At nearly seven minutes, Carpet Rash which kicks off side two is the longest song on the album. The guitars take on any icy clinical feel. It’s almost like they’re being played by robots. Stewart’s cold unfeeling vocals give the impression that having sex is as cold and unfeeling as this song. The song is called Carpet Rash, but he sings No Carpet Rash. The Brave New World of Total Control.
Shame Thugs – A short interlude that has a Japaneses feel to it which brings me to the other Henge which are the mythological creatures in Japanese folklore that can shapeshift into human form. This record certainly has a henge element to it in the way that it transforms itself from icy electronic repetition to raw punk rage while still maintaining its singular personality.
No Bibs – Trashy punk number with a vibrating bass line. Makes you feel like you’re at an ancient feast where the savages are gnawing food off of the bone and not using a napkin.
Meds II – This song gets dark and dismal and the louder I play this one the better it sounds. How dark you may wonder? The music sounds like Pornography era Cure and the lyrics aren’t far from that mark either. “To take pills to remember to take pills to forget” is the infinite loop refrain while bass plummets and the stark guitars swirl around you.
Sunday Baker – After that comedown, you need a rest. What better way than to head to the bakery for a pastry? That’s a roundabout way of saying this is a short instrumental interlude.
Love Performance – Total Control save one of their most straightforward, immediate songs for the very end. Stewart’s apocalyptic lyrics are tempered by the refrain, ‘these are not the last days’ over a bed of 80’s synths akin to John Fox Era Ultravox. Hiroshima Mon Amour without the sax.