Label: Staalplaat Format: CD
Stepping to an appropriately martial, mechano-deconstructed beat, The Tape-beatles‘ Good Times weaves a mix of political speech snippets, training-film educational banalities delivered with the wooden certitude of a rigid economic concentration on accumulation of capital and the promotion of that greatest lie of all, free-market competition, into a sometimes thumping orchestral soundscape. Delay is the key, as fragments of a cultural canon splinters in the guts of the very technology capitalism worships above all else. Electronics turned back on the blind idiot money men who fund their developers – it has a nice ring of just desserts to it.
How much of this is going to affect anyone not already disenchanted (to say the least) with the way things work in the allegedly developed economic systems of globalisation is debatable. However, The Tape-beatles have thought of this already, and the dialectic of innovation/absorption/commercialisation of the music industry on whose peripheries they operate for that matter too. There is a wholly spurious essay on the group in the CD booklet which announces their cover feature in Time magazine following the chagrin to the financial world caused by the album’s release, and further muddies the waters through allusions to their future collaboration with the Coca-Cola corporation. Needless to say, this is an artful prank which few readers will believe, but some might prefer to collude in the bizarre fantasy and imagine a world where the high and mighty can be upset by the contents of Good Times. Given developments from Seattle to Prague to the recent announcement of interest rate reductions signalling a “downturn” in the US mega-economy since the work was completed in 1999 though, there’s a salutary set of observations contained within this album, and perhaps one day…
There is more to The Tape-beatles than simple anti-capitalist irony; there’s a semi-mysterious play of the same title included in the accompanying texts too, apparently discovered in the walls of the group’s studio following a fire. It’s another game, and makes for several possible readings on the related subject of resistance to low-level economic activities which ultimately benefit multinationals, such as pyramid selling, through a symbolic dialogue of distinct opacity. There is something of The Residents’ dangerous humour to the Tape-beatles, with (slightly) less tongue in cheek – one of their mottoes is “We take ourselves seriously so you don’t have to”, after all. Another is plagiarism.
Perhaps there is more to be absorbed of this recording than mere politics alone – mere being relative of course, and the parameters of what constitutes American socio-economic life permeates the recordings. There is a hallucinatory aspect to the constant shift and recapitulation of orchestral and folk-song themes, flowing from the timestretched soundbites to the juxtaposition of word and sound, which makes for a stimulating listen in its own right. Clouds of recursive echo build on “The Keystone”, symbolising both disorder and decay and making for a rousing piece of discordia along the way. There’s even brash Funk sampling on “The Urge Of The Idea”, contrasting the work ethic with pleasure, and at the end it’s like having taken a trip under the guidance of a deconstrucionist prankster through the miasma of emotions attached to the driving demons of Western so-called civilization. It can be no mistake that “The Body Of His Desire” reconfigures “Fanfare For The Common Man” into a halting dirge, mocking the pomposity of surface political and artistic benevolence which caps what has become cultural industry in the media landscape. The album then concludes with a track called “All’s Right With The World”.
Read into this CD whatever seems appropriate, or less, but it stands as an exemplary work of plunderphonics in its own right too.
-Antron S. Meister-