Exploded View of Love is Los Angeles based S’s’ debut album and deals with the idea of love and sex gradually being diminished in an increasingly nihilistic, robotic and unsympathetic society. So far so good you might think and track titles such as ‘Unhaunted’ and ‘Weapons Grade Love’ are intriguing and build the feeling that this might be a very interesting release. So what of the music?
Opening track ‘Sex Machines’ pretty much sets the scene for what’s to come as it bursts into life for all of 40 seconds with angry electro beats and vocals that are part scream, part chant. The main man behind S’s goes by the name of JEF 700S, adding weight to the cold, machine like noises that emanate from the speakers. Apart from the shock of the discordant sounds, the first thing that struck me was how reminiscent it was of some of the more experimental music produced by Hawkwind in the post Lemmy years; the vocals for example are very similar to the late Robert Calvert’s as they bore into your unsuspecting brain. Up next is ‘Electric Friends’ and is perhaps the most accessible piece on the album. Because of the similarity in the name, it’s inevitable that comparisons will be made to the hit single by Tubeway Army and indeed the Gary Numan influence is evident in the song without it actually sounding like ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’ in particular.
‘Unhaunted’ follows rapidly and we’re already on track 3 before 4 minutes of the album have elapsed. ‘Unhaunted’ has been chosen as the first single from the album and has a real punchy dance beat pulsing through it. Any hint of commerciality is brutally stripped away though as the harsh vocals barge their way in to disrupt and finally destroy the party. By now you will probably be either thinking, “this is amazing” or “what on earth am I listening to here?” ‘Exploded View Of Love will undoubtedly polarise opinions and if you are in any doubt as to how you feel at this point, the almost ten minute ‘Love Life’ will settle the deal one way or the other. Here S’s sail quite close to early Nine Inch Nails territory before the final few minutes of the song descend into headache inducing noise and chaos which you will either find intensely exciting or excruciatingly annoying.
Other influences can be detected in the remaining tracks: Bowie, Kraftwerk, Devo and John Foxx all rear their creative heads at some point during the songs and this, combined with a Punk style mentality makes for a challenging and boldly divisive release. Conversely, it’s curious to note that despite this album having an intentionally futuristic sheen to it, most of those I’ve mentioned as influences originated or at least flourished in the 1970s. The exception is of course Nine Inch Nails and shades of some of Trent Reznor’s most tortured work can be heard here, but without the deft touches Reznor employed to make NIN such a global success. The 23 minute title track concludes things in typically unconventional style, containing as it does a 20 minute ambient fade out that will test most listeners’ patience to see it out to the very end.
The most positive thing I can say about Exploded View Of Love is that it will get people talking and will most certainly split opinions all over the place. On the flip side however it occasionally sounds like the results I would likely get if I left my teenage son alone in the house with a pile of mind altering drugs, a BBC sound effects disc and a basic recording device. I guarantee you won’t hear anything else like it this year, and when all’s said and done, that for me is the album’s defining statement.
Review: David Lack
1) Sex Machines
2) Electric Friends
4) Love Life
5) Strange Love
6) NSFP BTFM
7) Weapons Grade Love
8) Rip Out Wires
10) Exploded View Of Love