With the possible exception of MELODY MAKER’S risible ‘Romo’ movement (the New Romantic Revival, anyone? No, really, come back...), surely the most ridiculous of all the 1990s increasingly desperate press-based scenes was the NEW WAVE OF NEW WAVE - or NWONW for short.
Reaching its’ , ahem, ‘height’ in the months preceding the rise of both OASIS and all things Britpop in the opening months of 1994, the NWONW (snappy, huh?) attempted to re-create the late 1970s amphetamine rush via a slew of new three chord wannabes, ranging from the doomed, but briefly exciting S*M*A*S*H to the laughable, speed-addled clamour of THESE ANIMAL MEN.
Mercifully, most if the other chancers lumped in under this dubious, short-lived shambles are long forgotten. However, in the case of Dublin’s COMPULSION, the NWONW proved an unfiarly heavy millstone leading to a grossly premature death.
In truth, the quartet’s debut LP, “Comforter” (One Litle Indian, 1994) did garner plentiful praise, along with the band’s frenzied, coruscating live performances (often featuring guitarist Garrett Lee playing suspended by his legs from the lighting gantry), yet so often coverage centred around the dreaded NWONW.
To the band’s credit, they survived the rapid fall of the spurious NWONW, yet with Britpop’s inexorable rise, it was the mad for it, Oasis-at-Maine-Road climate that greeted COMPULSION’s criminally under-rated second album, “The Future Is Medium” like a bucket of cold sick. Despite a further smattering of good reviews, it seemed that even such a melodic grenade of spiky aggression would come on like a damp squib in such a Beatles/ retro - fixated landscape.
History’s loss is definitely our gain in this case, though, as six years after its’ release and five since they split, “The Future Is Medium” still fizzes magnificently with the cynical, overheating anthems and raw, nervy passion that should have brought COMPULSION kicking and seething to a wider audiencelike previous One Little Indian notables The Sugarcubes and The Shamen.
Typically, the subject matter often rails against Britpop’s narrow, retro leanings, especially on the LP’s two ace singles, “Question Time For The Proles” and “Juvenile Scene Detective.” “...Proles” especially sets out the band’s stall, stating that “Anient times are taking over/ sentimental when you’re sober/ Fills your mouth each time you speak you choke,” while “It’s Great” attacks the moronic end of the techno-rave scene with “I’m grinning, I’m laughing/ I’m ecstatic, Im in fucking delight!” before it collapses into its’ manic, foaming at the mouth phased ending.
Elsewhere, things are rarely less than engaging, whether its’ typical. full-throttle detonations like “They’re Breeding The grey Things Again” and the gloriously piss-taking “Fast Songs”, or, on slower , deceptively reflective material like “Me” (epic closer) or the haunting “Lost On Abbey Road”, where singer Josephmary Barry makes like the ghost of Britpop past: his trance-like vocals recounting a tale of being hit by a car on THAT zebra crossing. There’s even room for the occasional theremin and gratuitous weirdness on the penultimate “Spotlight Into Space.”
Undoubtedly, it’s COMPULSION’S finest hour, aided and abetted by producer Mark Freegard, whose crisp techniques had previously assisted THE BREEDERS (“Last Splash”) and MANIC STREET PREACHERS (“The Holy Bible”). He’s no slouch here, either as Compulsion’s rhythm section. Sid Rainey and Jan-Willem Alkema are a brooding presence throughout, while Lee’s guitar spews out economic, hi-octane riffology to ignite Joey’s cutting, caustic vox.
With COMPULSION’S usual eye for detail, the whole thing comes packaged in the band’s knowing, carrot-topped take on Kraftwerk’s “Man Machine”; a sly nod to tomorrow’s possbilities from a band out -of -step with their retro surroundings. Jospehmary sums it up on “Happy Ending”: - “I listened to your music, it’s not to say it’s shit/ I just started laughing, could not relate to it.”
Touche, Oasis, Ocean Colour Scene, Embrace etc. Dn’t get dreary, get mad and search out “The Future Is Medium.” Six years on it’s still livid and vital