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Class 6(66)

Godflesh: StreetcleanerGodflesh: Streetcleaner

18/02/09  ||  Khlysty

Released: 1989

Introduction

You know about Justin K. Broadrick, right? The guy who –along with Nick Bullen and Mick Harris- invented grindcore, back in the mid-80s? The one who, with half a record done for Napalm Death, fucked off to play the fuckin’ drums –ferchrissake!- for Head of David? And when he thought that the band was turning wussy, he left them and went on to make Godflesh with bassist Benny G.C. Green and guitarist Paul Neville and a fuckin’ drum-machine for drummer? Yeah, that one. Well, that’s his first album with Godflesh and it’s really –and I mean REALLY- fantasmo: it’s one of the heaviest, ugliest, soul-wrecking records EVER MADE! Also, it’s a classic. If you don’t have it, fuck off to another site. If you got it, but don’t like, go kill yerself…

Songwriting

10. You know how grind is heavy, fast an’ short? Well, Broadrick and co. applied the dictum, but in a very different manner: the songs are quite long, but they retain grindcore’s heaviness and ugliness. Also, they’re not nuclear-strength fast – actually, most of them are slow – but they constantly and continuously erupt in a most grindcore-ish way. Also, the drum machine is not used like a device to keep rhythm: when it’s not clubbing you to death, it’s used as a fuckin’machine gun. The songwriting it’s a perfect mix of early Swans brutality, Napalm Death noise and Mr. Broadrick’s own ideas of what music should be, played in a way that after a while makes you feel a) unclean and/or b) ready to kill anyone even looking at you in a way you consider not acceptable under the circumstances. You want nihilism? “Streetcleaner” got it in fuckin’ spades!

Production

8. A little bit muddy. Obviously, Earache didn’t paid prime buck for it. But I think it adds to the whole brutality thing. Also, Justin’s roars rise perfectly above the din to add a whole new dimension of hopelessness to the proceedings. I have to point out that the CD version that I have contains the “Tiny Tears” E.P., never released elsewhere, where the production seems more “opaque” and the mix less powerful. Shame…

Guitars

10. So far removed from the guitar heroics of trad metal, that it’s almost a new thing. The guitars don’t play riffs; instead, they pile layer upon layer of noise and feedback – much like the Westberg guy did for early Swans, while hidden well under the din are – yesssssss! – melodies, creepy little hooks that make the songs stick in your brain like mental tapeworms. It’s incredible how smart these guys are in orchestrating their guitar attack and also how economic and to they point their playing is. No theatrics, no flash, no heroics: just a pulverizing wall of sound, enhanced, also by the…

Vocals

9. The opposite of the drums: double-tracked, totally human, totally hopeless roars of hatred and agony towards mankind. So bleak is Broadrick’s delivery, that I suppose he couldn’t do it anymore afterwards and changed his style –ever so little, but so incalculably different. His howls are of a soul in a state of total disgust for everything. Not surprising, if one looks at the…

Bass

10. Bass, like in “a crazy machine that plays bass”, or in “a serial killer that uses bass as a weapon to tear you a new one”. Green is THE man! Also, it helps that, besides keeping the rhythm and adding to the general paranoia and ugliness, he knows how to funk things up in ways ol’ Bootsie had never even dreamt of, even in fever-and-drugs-induced nightmares. So, Godflesh’s bass: anchor, noisemaker, music-enhancer. In a word, perfect.

Drums

10. Quickly, now, which are the bands that actually benefited from having a synthetic drummer? Big Black, yes, and… Godflesh! Drum machine as an assault weapon. Drum machine as a battering ram. Drum machine as a representation of human inability and mechanical supremacy. Drum machine as dehumanizer of music. That’s it, fuckers, and it hurts!

Lyrics

9. Broadrick’s no bard and he knows it. Also, he has a clear vision of what he wants to express in the lyrics of this record: hate, anger, repulsion, disgust, rejection of his surroundings, of the human condition, of humanity at large. Lyrically, rarely has there been a record so emotionally explosive and devastating, so negative, so… what’s the word, again? Ah, yes, nihilistic. I cannot even imagine its impact when people actually heard it for the first time. “You breed like rats”, indeed…

Cover art

10. A grainy still from one of the most horrifying scenes in Ken Russel’s “Altered States”: crosses, fire, death, no redemption (as a sidenote, Godflesh’s covers where always great and Broadrick’s cinematic knowledge is obviously vast. Maya Deren, anyone?).

Logo

7. Simple font, easily recognizable, ok…

Booklet

8. Partial lyrics, bizarre photos (even from fuckin’ “Eraserhead”!), some info, just that…

Overall and ending rant

10. In Godflesh’s long catalogue of LP’s, EP’s, singles, etc, “Streetcleaner” represents an early peak. Also, it’s something that the band seemed to HAVE to get out of its system, to continue make music. Their following work was great, to the point of untouchable, but this little fucker is something that surpasses styles, musical innovation, or ideas. This is a slab of cold brutality, the musical equivalent of “The Atrocity Exhibition”, a monument of ugly thoughts and hateful feelings. It’s so dark as to approach a black hole in musical and lyrical terms. Also, it’s insurmountable. I didn’t hear voices; it was a conscious decision of my part…