Uncle Jordan’s Vault: Unclassifiable

thisheat-deceitFear motivates human behavior nearly as much as sex. In fact, most actions that are sexually motivated are more specifically motivated by “fear of not having sex.” Fear can build and destroy walls and bridges and can make human beings do some really creepy shit.

This Heat’s essential 1981 record Deceit is perhaps the most perfect distillation of the various aspects of fear that I have ever heard in popular music. The London experimental rock group set out to explore the dark side of 80’s nationalism, nuclear proliferation and overall uneasiness in a way that feels completely fresh over 30 years later.

In an era where Cold War paranoia was such a part of Reagan-era national identity that it seemed almost quaint, and the actual end of humanity seemed like a tangible, cuddly thing, This Heat dared to make the most challenging, haunting and layered record of the era. Drawing from live improvisation, post-punk, tribal music and tape loops, Deceit is easy to imagine as a patchwork quilt, stitched together from various disparate sources. Some of it is catchy, even gorgeous. The raw harmony in opening track “Sleep” is a thing of beauty. Some of it is prescient and forward-thinking. “Makeshift Swahili”  is cast in the mold of Big Black and predicts bands like Slint and Jesus Lizard. “SPQR” tackles a Roman-style imperialism mentality that fits right in with America’s “World Police” philosophy. It’s no accident that “Independence” contains lines from the Declaration of Independence. Though we’re dealing with a British band here, the dystopia hinted at throughout the album is a direct indictment of the U.S. The cover of the album contains images of nuclear bombs, mushroom clouds, and the face of Ronald Reagan (among other things).

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No track is reasonably foreseeable. Everything is a complete departure from the idea before it. And yet, if we use fear as a focal point, the whole piece starts to make sense. Finishing Deceit is akin to finally reading a book you know you were supposed to have read by now. It’s not always painless, it’s not always pleasant, but it is always enriching.

This album is a must for those who want their notions of rock music challenged. You’re not going to put on a record by This Heat at a barbecue. This is a solo venture, preferably with a decent sound setup (I’m no purist. Just don’t listen to it through the speakers on your phone).

And this goes without saying, but give it a few listens, would you?

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One comment to “Uncle Jordan’s Vault: Unclassifiable”
  1. Pingback: Five Great Concept Albums (That Are Not Called “Tommy” or “The Wall”) | Rocknuts

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