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Escape from Noise

Negativland

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Album Review

While the sound collage of Negativland's first three studio albums pointed toward the band's ultimate direction, they were really rough sketches compared to Escape from Noise. Escape is a full-on audio assault, more musical than ever, but with tight and well-constructed sound sections thrown in. Instead of simply a collection of sounds and snippets, however, each cut on Escape from Noise picks a target and takes aim. "Quiet Please" takes on market research in the world of radio. "Michael Jackson" is a laundry list of pop stars being charged with creating commercial pop. "Sycamore" turns happy, shiny, new pre-planned communities into something far more sinister. Although some other tracks ("Yellow, Black and Rectangular," "Car Bomb") don't really take on particular targets, they're fun nonetheless. Probably the most accomplished piece is the strangely creepy "Time Zones," which talks about how many time zones there are in the Soviet Union (there are 11, by the way, and it's not even funny). Although it wasn't apparent at the time, the centerpiece of the album would be "Christianity Is Stupid," a prime example of how sound bytes can be rearranged to say whatever you want them to say. (The full sound bytes appear on the album Helter Stupid, the first half of which was inspired by a media frenzy after the band suggested that a murder may be attributable to "Christianity Is Stupid" as an excuse to get out of having to tour in the wake of this album, which turned out to be a much bigger success than anyone expected.) Scattered throughout the album are unexpected guest appearances from some of the biggest names in underground music, including Jello Biafra on "toilet flushing," the Residents on "hoots and clanging," and the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia and Mickey Hart on mouth sounds and "processed animals." In addition to better-constructed material, the production quality on Escape from Noise is also top-notch, making it a joy to listen to. Although future works would prove more controversial, this is probably Negativland's masterwork.

Biography

Formed: 1979 in Berkeley, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Some will always say that practical jokers should expect to get attacked back themselves at some point. Others may note that within any jokes there are some human truths. Still others will just want to enjoy the jokes for themselves as jokes and nothing more. Three differing statements, all valid truths when applied to one of America's most curious, clever, and inventive bands in the last 20 years of the 20th century and beyond, Negativland. Though named after a track by cult Krautrock band Neu!,...
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Escape from Noise, Negativland
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