Sutcliffe Jugend - ShameFollowing the aggressive outbursts of Offal and about 5 other releases Shame is the latest release from Kevin Tomkins and Paul Taylor as Sutcliffe Jugend with 5 tracks examining different facets of shame. On Shame they continue with a visceral powerful noise drenched sound but this time it's shaped into something more textured and experimental with the final track even offering an effective atmospheric noisescape. Amidst the long slabs of electronic treatments noise is used to create tension and unease, with some even taking a rhythmic essence. It's all quite controlled and carefully harnessed resulting in a sense of musicality I've never heard before from Sutcliffe Jugend. Shame even avoids the ugliness characterised by the varied personas inhabited by Tomkins on a number of narrative driven tracks that featured on Pigdaddy and With Extreme Prejudice. That's not to say it's not confrontational or provocative, it certainly is and you wouldn't expect anything else from these noise veterans. Tomkins' lyrics are delivered with a viciousness, but this time around they're less prone to contrived lyrical delivery and subject to treatments as they have been on previous releases. Here the viciousness and extremity revolves around the intent that Tomkins unleashes with the wordy monologues on Shame that veer between action and response.
'Shame' builds from brooding synths and soaring guitar textures with Tomkins' vocals treated and spoken. Passages of warped, treated electronic squelch enter and still those synths build. You need to ride out the intensity as it continually builds. Tomkins' vocals are spoken, spat out, and delivered with a shrillness as he wrestles with the complexities of the psychology of a "convicted" sexual predator and perhaps the inevitable response from the judge and jury of societal commentators. It's a blistering tension filled opener, almost masking the piercing noise scrapes lurking underneath which with its carefully controlled composition are at odds with the unbridled and unfettered actions of the protagonist.
Tomkins' voice is hardened and spoken, occasionally surrounded by treatments on 'Sledge' as he rails against artists who offer transgression but hold back on the "money shot". Pretence in favour of reality. It's strangely effective with the berating, insulting lyrical delivery almost co-opting a power electronics phrasing mode while they hold back on the noise opting for a more atmospherically textured backing comprising hammered keys and pounding stabs over twisted droning electronics.
This holding back on all-out-noise outbursts is something Sutcliffe Jugend do a lot on Shame. Their history stretches back some 35 years to their earliest power electronic releases on the infamous Come Organisation label but on Shame noise is merely deployed as a texture. In no way is Shame extreme noise or power electronics by numbers. The themes of the genre remain but the execution on Shame is more subtle and refined. 'Hurts' is certainly provocative though, with its ugly descriptions of abuse delivered with a psychotic shrillness over slow unsettling waves of sinister electronic treatments and looped reedy effects. Its troubling lyrical themes ensuring it wins the prize for being the most menacing track on Shame.
'Bait' shudders to blasts of distorted noise mixed with tonal synths. Tomkins' bellows come in the form of a rhythmic holler as it careers onwards: "A narcissistic bore, Bohemian out of touch dreamer; a spoilt and shallow indulgence, spouting nonsense". It could be read as an attack on many current day noise artists who hold back on the sexual aspect merely revelling in the power of noise. Tomkins is having none of that: "Give me the thrill of the noise...show me how dirty this fucking world can be", he implores. "So what's the attraction, why the voyeuristic bent, the filthy sex obsession, Give me some action". That's my reading of it, anyway. Pounding away incessantly it recalls earlier tracks such as 'Empathiser' and 'Slice' and those rare moments when Sutcliffe Jugend move into rhythmically propelled tracks.
Sutcliffe Jugend really expand on the atmospherics and textures on the closer, 'Blood'; looping textured atmospherics over faint distant harmonies and low sweeping bass shudders. In Sutcliffe Jugend terms, at least, 'Blood' is quite minimal. Over the course of its 13-minute duration it gets progressively denser, layering in additional harsher elements to the mix, resulting in an effective noisescape.
Out of of all the Sutcliffe Jugend releases I've heard Shame achieves the distinction of being their most musically palatable release. In fact, it is probably the best release I've heard from them and certainly one of their most cohesive. Maybe it draws on their more experimental tendencies as featured on their solo releases but it's nowhere near as direct and punishing as say With Extreme Prejudice. Lyrically it's as provocative and confrontational as ever, sharing a lyrical affinity with the liberal baiting of Offal. 35 years in and Sutcliffe Jugend retain the ability to evolve and surprise with this powerfully disturbing tension filled release. Shame is released by Hagshadow on CD as a 6 panel digipack with accompanying lyric insert and sticker. For more information go to Hagshadow