Treading a similar path to that of The Prodigy or Pendulum (both of whom they’ve toured with), South Central blur the lines between Dance and Rock. It’s no surprise to find that they’ve also found themselves DJing after Iron Maiden‘s Sonisphere set and sharing a stage with Rage Against The Machine.
With such credentials under their belt, you’d expect Society Of The Spectacle to be an album that cross-pollinates these styles with assured aplomb, but it’s a rocky ride at times.
Opening shot Nu Control rumbles away on the back of a reliable bass-line. A robotic voice sweeps across proceedings, sounding like it might puke at any moment, but that about as exciting as it gets. Rudimentary drum patterns and screaming keyboards try to inject a little venom but just seem toothless. The Day I Die follows with an initial burst of vigour before tumbling into a Eurodance cop out. Just when things couldn’t seem any worse, along comes Bionic. Pitched somewhere between the cartoon-terror years of The Prodigy and the cast offs of Sheep On Drugs. It lacks focus, seemingly trapped on an endless treadmill of banality.
So far, so disappointing, but somehow South Central pull it out of the bag from here on in. The shape-shifting squelch of Demons is infectious. Where the previous songs stick rigidly to basic structuring and ignore the need for progression, suddenly the band start to mix it up a little. Cyborg voices clash with meandering funk bass, and choral keyboards. There’s even time for a euphoric build at the mid-point. Those in search of Rock inflections will be disappointed however, as Demons tips its hat gracefully in the direction of the clubs of Europe.
S.O.S. redresses the balance with squalls of feedback and an off kilter drum-pattern. Cutting back and forth between guitar interjections and syncopated keyboards, it’s a far more intelligent mass of sound.� No Way Back returns to the simplistic formula, but with keyboards that sound like a shootout between a pair of Big Traks and a sneered vocal. It possesses an infectious attitude that simply isn’t present early on.
The slowburning instrumental of The Forth Way introduces is sedately paced in comparison to the rest of the album, it chimes beautifully and evolves delicately. It’s only a matter of time before it find’s itself supporting an enthusiastic Brian Cox narrative about the imminent death of everything everwhere – a chain of events that he seems genuinely pleased about, that most would describe as “depressing”.
The two best moments on the album come in the form of collaborations.�Crawl features Gary Numan, a man who knows a thing or two about electro and emotional disconnect. Unsurprisingly, it sounds more like a Gary Numan track than something of South Central’s devising. A brooding clash of rock and electro, it possesses real menace as it undulates between itchy glitches and serrated guitar tones – a moment of perfection.
The Moth finds noiseniks A Place To Bury Strangers throwing their thrumming tones into the mix. Had this been written after the demise of Joy Division there’d have been no need for New Order. Taut guitar lines and dreamscape electronics combine with a hazy vocal line making for a fraught final few minutes as the band swinging between an opiate fog and an urgent desire for chaos.
Society Of The Spectacle is a strange record, full of gems yet introduced with a series of songs that could easily deter the casual listener. Dig deeper though, and there’s some great stuff to be found.