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This Heat - Deceit CD (album) cover


This Heat



4.33 | 116 ratings

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5 stars Rating: A+ (10.0)

A captivating guitar line comes floating out of your speakers, soon joined by soothing voices singing, "sleep, sleep, sleep, go to sleep." A hypnotic drum rhythm comes in to complete the perfect picture of a lullaby.

Thus begins your journey into This Heat's magnum opus, Deceit. A product of the burgeoning post-punk scene of the time, This Heat turned around and managed to both define and deconstruct the genre at the same time, all while remaining far too obscure for the level of intelligence they showed. Taking the pure energy of punk and mixing it with the grooves of Krautrock and the sophistication of progressive rock, This Heat created music of the likes never heard before (or since, for that matter), and they sounded amazing doing it. Propelled by Charles Hayward's hypnotic drumbeats and urgent, passionate, and versatile vocals, This Heat's music set the stage for much of post-rock and modern avant-prog.

But while their musical innovation is the defining factor of This Heat's legacy, it is the lyrical content of Deceit that lifts it from being an amazing album to being a legendary album. Never before or after have I heard a CD with such a stunning lyrical text. Thematically dealing with the threat of the atomic bomb (the band have said they wrote this CD due to their fear that they would all wake up dead one day), Deceit takes us through all the causes of the nuclear threat, all the possible triggers, providing a biting satire of the cold war world. They channel the anger of punk, but they infuse it with intelligence unseen in most of the music dealing with similar themes.

But, as it's specifically dealing with issues of the day, it must sound dated, right?


Yes, that is a resounding lack of affirmation you are hearing. This is not dated in any way, for the very simple reason that the nuclear threat is still with us, as are many of the other issues discussed on Deceit. In fact, much of what drives this album is not only still around, but far more prominently around now than it was back in 1981 when Deceit was first released.

Most prominent among these is This Heat's stark condemnation of materialism and greed as the key triggers for a nuclear war. In "Sleep," we are lulled to sleep by various advertising slogans ("softness is a thing called comfort," "doesn't cost much to keep in touch"). In "SPQR," we are informed that "we are all Romans, unconscious collective," and we "organize by 'property is power.'" "Makeshift Swahili" is a brutal (musically and lyrically) attack on imperialism, as seen in such lines as "we give you firewater; you give us your land." There are other triggers, too, of course. "Shrink Wrap" condemns equally politicians and the media with the remarkably simple yet efficient refrain of "you lie, you lie, you lie," and "Paper Hats" mocks irresponsible government, ridiculing Great Britain's useless guide to surviving a nuclear attack, asking "what do we expect, paper hats, or maybe even roses-the sound of explosions." Rather than actually working to prevent nuclear war, the British government chooses to make a worthless gesture that will resonate well with the people. But not, clearly, with This Heat. In "Independence," This Heat even quote the United States Declaration of Independence to call for the people to kick out the governments creating the mess, as seen in their choice to end on the line, "whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it" ("these ends" being the protection of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness). On the other hand, This Heat make sure that the public does not escape blame, pointing the finger at us for isolating ourselves from human contact in the bittersweet "Triumph."

Providing the backbone for these barbed attacks is a subtle twist of a normally dull and cliché storyline, making it vibrant and full of life. The theme is, as you might guess from "Sleep," that of a dream where, at the end, you wake up to find it's only a dream. In this case, however, it is only a quasi-dream, a false reality we have set up for ourselves where drowning in creature comforts is desirable. Lost within this blanket of commercialism, we are oblivious to the problems it causes, and by the time we wake up, all we are left with is the bleak nothingness illustrated perfectly in the instrumental sound collage "Hi Baku Shyo" (Japanese for Suffer Bomb Disease). The entire piece reeks of a dreary silence, a total lack of life. We snap out heaven and find ourselves in hell.

While Deceit is easily the most legitimate angry CD I've heard (in the sense that they're not angry to sell their music, but because they're actually angry), it is the brief moments of colorful humor that make it so good, such as in "Makeshift Swahili," where This Heat describe the interaction between a colonizer and the colonized with a veiled insult that would make Shakespeare proud. "Makeshift she sings in her native German. You try to understand what she's trying to say. She says you're only as good as the words you understand, and you, you don't understand a word." In a similar vein is the line in "Cenotaph" where Charles Hayward intones, "the war to end all war, and the war that came after that."

All of these elements come to a head in the stunningly powerful "A New Kind of Water," the title of which may refer to the radioactive water (also known as heavy water) that results from nuclear explosions. Starting with the straightforward, "eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die," "A New Kind of Water" portrays the final hours before the explosion as This Heat frantically and futily try to alert the world to the danger it's in. Unfortunately, however, they "don't know either, what is the answer." They feel gravely misled - "we were told to expect more, and now that we've got more, we want more" (there's commercialism popping up again). For the final three minutes, we are presented with one of the most moving songs I have ever heard. While still angry, a sense of defeatism has crept into the song. There is nothing that can be done. "The size of it all carries us along, more is better, it's what we want." "You know from experience that - creature comforts, a house that's warm - your body would choose all this, of course, it's innate, we're selfish." The final stanza admits, "this nuclear state is our demise," and advises (to no one in particular), "hide away Peter, fly away Paul, who can watch as the Earth burns, shatters, and dies?"

A desert island disc for sure.

Pnoom! | 5/5 |


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