Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Atari Teenage Riot - Is This Hyperreal?

Yes, it undoubtedly is!
In the 1990s, Atari Teenage Riot pioneered 'digital hardcore', fusing hardcore punk with techno rhythms. Invitations to overthrow capitalism and 'destroy two thousand years of culture' were verbally lobbed into this volatile Molotov mix, and many shut their ears. But the Berliners gained a largeish underground following, which lapped it up. Then founder member Carl Crack died - ironically of a drug overdose, and the band began a lengthy hiatus.

Fast forward to the present day, and the surviving teenage rioters are pushing forty. But arguably their time has come. Everything they so manically thrust at us all those years ago is coming to pass in 2011, with its 'Twitter revolutions', its WikiLeaks and its legions of Anonymous hackers attacking corporate and state power. It's not so much that Atari Teenage Riot have come of age, it's that the age has gone Atari Teenage Riot. Yes, they are hyperreal.

There are problems with this though. Alec Empire and Nic Endo slightly rest on their laurels with this album, and CX KiDTRONiK (not his real name) doesn't seem to add much. Amongst the piledriving intensity, there is little that would have been out of place on 1999's 60 Second Wipeout. In this context, ATR seem almost stale. But they're not really. They were just extremely prophetic in their twenties (as if they could be anything other than extreme).

The new ATR model their best 'Don't fuck with us' faces
It's hard to pick out highlights from the forty-five minute meshing mêlée of pure noise that is Hyperreal. Nothing here is exactly catchy, rather it's like being frantically shaken backwards and forwards by a machine that's pitilessly screaming in your face, but hey, I did press play.

Still, Activate! is a relatively easy listening call to arms, with its dogged insistence that, yes, you activate your life and "turn up and play". The Only Slight Glimmer Of Hope's title paraphrases Mick Jagger's quote about anarchy from back in the day, as foreboding chanting grapples with mindfuck rhythms modern day Prodigy could only dream of. And on Rearrange Your Synapses, Empire insists that ATR are still relevant, "very much so" in fact, because "some people still live in an illusion", before an onslaught of ranting, alarms and various other indescribable noises wash over the listener like a nuclear blast.

Empire has described Hyperreal as "a protest album for the Google generation", and I hope it finds its way into riots, squat parties and the iPhones of hactivists. I doubt it will though, as the kids don't listen to techno anymore; it's more about that dubstep thing. Now if 2011 could just have been 1995, ATR would be the biggest band in the world at the moment.
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