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DECEIT

This Heat

RIO/Avant-Prog


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Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars (This review is partly based on the informative booklet accompanying the Out Of Cold Storage box set)

Deceit was This Heat's second studio album and their final release before they split in 1982. It's more song based than their debut and is also closer to mainstream rock music, in the same way that Faust So Far is, on the surface at least, more accessible than Faust. It's also a concept album that is both very much of its time and timeless - the themes it explores remain relevant today, and some of the songs have become even more apposite in the last 25 years.

The main theme of the album is the fear of nuclear war that permeated popular culture in the 1980s. Ronald Reagan in the United States and Mrs Thatcher in the UK had ushered in a new right wing consensus and the arms race between the USA and its allies on one side and the USSR and its satellites on the other had accelerated. From Mad Max's cinematic vision of a post apocalyptic wasteland to Prince urging "Ronnie Talk To Russia" to Boy George singing the exceedingly stupid "War" nuclear paranoia was everywhere, and membership of CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) reached record levels. This was the backdrop to Deceit, arguably the sharpest and most intelligent musical response that the era produced.

James Joyce once said that "History is a nightmare from which we are trying to awaken" and this album is a graphic evocation of that nightmare. It starts innocuously enough with 'Sleep', a lullabye whose lyrics are taken from popular advertising jingles of the time, all sung in Canterbury style voices over one of Hayward's characteristic drum patterns. The TV lulls us into a dream state, then Paper Hats enters in a burst of sound and fury. Over the kind of claustrophobic arrangement that had been heard on pieces like Horizontal Hold, the lyrics take an oblique sideswipe at the UK government's ridiculous (though well intentioned) pamphlet Protect and Survive, a handy guide to surviving a nuclear attack. The music then continues to shift and mutate via This Heat's own dream logic into the comparatively tranquil Triumph, a brief meditation on urban alienation which namechecks Leni Riefenstahl's notorious propaganda film of the Nuremburg rally (the TV is still playing as we sleep; what ideas are being planted in our subconcious?). This segues into SPQR (Latin ' Senatus Populusque Romanus' - 'The Senate and the Roman People', emblazoned on the standards of the Roman legions), a brutal and intense 2 chord krautrocker that tells us 'We are all Romans' and paints a picture of belligerent imperialism, a point firmly underscored by Cenotaph, a mournful and moving tribute to the annual ceremony where veterans of the two World Wars gather for Remembrance Sunday that reminds us that 'History repeats itself' and pointedly refers to 'The war to end all wars/And the war after that'. This track closed side 1 of the vinyl original on a sombre note.

The second half of the album opens with Shrink Wrap, a kind of reprise of Sleep in which the dreamer realises that the mass media cannot be trusted; 'You lie you lie/Wolf in sheep's clothing'. The lullabye is twisted into a new, grotesque form propelled by Hayward's powerhouse drumming, before giving way to Radio Prague, a sound collage/group improv incorporating a snippet from Radio Prague that the band later discovered was a flood warning. Makeshift Swahili follows, a bitter attack on cultural imperialism and the exploitation of indigenous peoples which musically is a distant relative of art school new wavers Wire. This leads into Independence, a recitation of the American Declaration of Independence over a musical backdrop which apparently quotes Ennio Morricone's western soundtracks. The sound here is lighter and airier than the slightly oppressive feel of much of the album. The intention, successfully realised, was to evoke images of a cowboy (Ronald Reagan had made numerous westerns) while simultaneously citing the noble ideals on which the USA was founded. The dream ends with A New Kind Of Water which refers to 'New York, Moscow, Nairobi in flames' before admitting 'I don't know either, what is the answer'. The song is another tightly arranged trio performance which gives way abruptly to the bleak sound collage of Hi Baku Shyo (Suffer Bomb Disease). The dreamer has awoken to realise that the nightmare has come true, and the world is a post apocalyptic wasteland, the only musical sounds being a brief melodica refrain and a bell (from Lambeth Town Hall clock) chiming in the distance.

Unlike many other songs and albums which explored similar themes, Deceit offers no easy answers; while This Heat were firmly in the anti nuclear camp, the juxtaposition of Triumph and Cenotaph is a tacit acknowledgement that armed conflict can be a necessary evil, and Independence makes the crucial distinction between criticism of the then president of the USA and the ideals of the great nation that he led. Musically it's a remarkable piece of work, with constantly shifting moods and textures and some remarkable multi instrumental performances. Charles Hayward's drumming is precise and powerful and Charles Bullen plays guitar with a discipline and focus that never conceals his remarkable talent. Gareth Williams was still the wild card, but had also matured into a solid bass player which made for some breathtaking ensemble playing in places - the lengthy coda to Paper hats being a particular highlight.

5 stars for this album. It's a deep, brilliantly realised conceptual piece in which musicians with progressive backgrounds and sensibilities engaged with their times and picked up the gauntlet thrown down by the punk/new wave revolution. Essential listening.

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Send comments to Syzygy (BETA) | Report this review (#83580)
Posted Wednesday, July 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

Second album from this incredible trio, which does a mix of RIO and "musique concrète" (almost industrial) and is obviously one of the tougher groups present in this database to get into. If you can believe it, this album is easy, but only compared to the rest of their discography. The group actually use the song format on this album: there are obvious rhythms, and even semblance of melodies, although my guess is that as a "normal proghead" (one that listens to average prog in the sense of symphonic), if you were to try out this album, you'd probably call the loony bin to reserve a spot for this writer. But I wouldn't call this pop music either, but somehow, we are not that far away from Killing Joke and other more "obtuse" (in a good way) and experimental bands of the early 80's.

Clearly taking where Faust had left it (especially with Tapes), TH is using tapes for a good part of their music, a bit as nowadays many just sample sounds, but as opposed to their previous recording, vocals are very present in this album and again one thinks of KJ, but as you'll easily guess, TH is a much more aesthetic band. Hayward's drumming is still the centre of the sound, and may be the best instrumentalist of the group. Bullen (who was never a musician before this band) is making good progress, while both he and Hayward play some guitar and this clearly adds a dimension as evident on the Independence track, which is the highlight of this disc. Probably one of the better albums out of England that year, it certainly sounds its era, but compared to the new wave groups that were flooding the airwaves, TH buries them all.

Should you really want to investigate This Heat, this album is the place to start, but as I stopped with this album, I wouldn't know with further albums are in the same direction. This only thing I can tell you is that this is far from their previous recordings (this includes their debut, but the Repeat album made of recordings prior to their first album). In either case, this album is the one I prefer from this group.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#117186)
Posted Tuesday, April 03, 2007 | Review Permalink
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?

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.

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Send comments to Pnoom! (BETA) | Report this review (#163500)
Posted Saturday, March 08, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars How this album has managed to be so thoroughly ignored by the community here at ProgArchives is astounding to me. It's the perfect storm of progressive brilliance: Fascinating musicianship, intelligent, beguiling lyrics and a unique sound that "Deceit" can claim to be its own and only its own.

To bottomline it, this album sounds a lot like how the cover looks: Like the music of a grotesque but ultimately friendly patchwork machine that wishes to show you the inner workings of his mind. Indeed, "Deceit" is something of a journey. "Paper Hats" is a fantastic example of this, starting out with a hypnotic groove that alternates vocals between mellow chanting and tortured wails, then dovetails without warning into an avant-jazz freakout before settling back into a segment that could almost be called post-rock, with a bit of a bouncier rhythm than most songs from said genre.

This is not to say that the band does not keep a consistent tone throughout the album, because if anything This Heat is most remarkable at keeping a consistently sinister vibe in their music while keeping things varied enough to make sure the album's 40 minute runtime fly by in a flash. Even though it's easy to see the style they've secured as their own- post punk with jazz affectations and a DIY industrial aesthetic-it's remarkable how the album manages to keep the listener on their toes. Clanking, druggy soundscapes break up the punchier post-punk numbers without ever feeling unwelcome, and as bizarre as it may seem, sandwiched between all this weirdness is a group of songs that wouldn't be unwelcome on nearly any dance floor. The spectacular rhythm section along with the ahead-of-its-time electronic sound manipulation make sure that not only are these songs enjoyable and captivating, but timeless as well. This is an album that could have just as easily come out in 2011 as 1981, which in itself is something of a minor miracle.

This Heat was a remarkably short lived band, but in the half decade they were around they managed to pump enough brilliance into one album to secure their place in music history for all of time. "Deceit" is a necessary album. Besides being at once thoroughly accessible and truly avant-garde, it's an album that synthesizes a hybrid of styles in a way that forms a unique work using complex musicianship and thought provoking ideas, which is the very pinnacle of what every good progressive record. Make no mistake however, this is not merely a "good" progressive record: It is a vital document that every band who wishes to create a unique piece of music must take note of.

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Send comments to 40footwolf (BETA) | Report this review (#563495)
Posted Sunday, November 06, 2011 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars The missing link between post-punk, new wave, industrial music and RIO, Deceit's This Heat takes the work of Talking Heads, late-period Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, Art Zoyd, Metal Box-era Public Image Limited, Throbbing Gristle and does terrible, horrifying things to them to create a bizarre new hybrid. This is what you'd get if World War III broke out in 1981 and you tried to reconstruct punk rock or progressive rock from the tiny fragments of your blown-out local record store. Combining intriguing musicianship with avant-garde tape manipulations and bleak soundscapes, the album even points the way towards the bleaker and more frightening landscapes of post-rock. A true breakthrough.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#1137787)
Posted Tuesday, February 25, 2014 | Review Permalink

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