Godflesh – Slateman

After Godflesh released a very low-key debut album through Swordfish, (yes, the guys from the legendary independent Record Store in Birmingham, U.K.). They followed it with Streetclaner – a simply sublime, very heavy 2nd album.

When I first listened to Streetcleaner (Godflesh) I strongly imagined it would be their best ever album. I was right. Somehow  Streetcleaner pushed that Big Black, Swans – sound to the max. Controlled and very powerful. You wonder how 2 people can make so much noise.

However, Streetcleaner was topped by a 12 Inch Single released by Godflesh in 1991. Containing only 2 tracks, Slateman / Wound ’91 saw the bands musical peak in my humble opinion.

Comparisons (not musically) come to mind about In God We Trust seeing the Dead Kennedys arguable artistic peak. This E.P. similarly sees Godflesh at their zenith.

Released, surprisingly on Sub-Pop, Slateman looked like a winner from the off. The cover sees a black and white shot of the band performing live. I was lucky enough to see Justin Broaderick when he was still in Napalm Death and Godflesh’s first ever gig(s).

Incredibly Napalm Death maintained true unique quality for their first 2 albums. The quality of Side One of Scum (Napalm Deaths first album) does stand out as their best material. This is where the art lays – and no surprise that it’s the only Napalm Death released material (barring a very scarce mini album with Concrete Sox) that features Broaderick. Correct me if i’m wrong on this very nerdy fact.

Napalm Death did deserve accolade for what they initially did. It’s a pity they did not explore that experimental sound that the first track of From Enslavement To Obliteration more and push into Swans territory.

I’m not knocking Napalm Death, but from the 2nd album it was a weakened sound that went down Heavy Metal extreme territory a tad too easily. A shame really. They were in a strong position and like so many others, became a tad complacent.

Napalm Death put on some great shows. The Mermaid, Kaleidoscope  (especially the show with S.O.B.). However Godflesh live was a different proposition altogether. Right from Godflesh’s debut show you could see they were something very special. Music that tore you apart but managed to deeply get inside you. The music throbs through you, when you go with the sound, feeling and mood, it’s a very personal experience – this sounds corny – but it’s true.

Anyway. Slateman sounds like no song on Streetcleaner. It improves Streetcleaner – it has a new sound. It glides. It sounds harrowing yet uplifting at the same time. Tight drum machine loops grip the sound. A near distant vocal paints the canvas. To an untrained ear it could almost sound bland, but there’s a lot going on and a lot to get lost in. A truly great sound. Sliding, un-dominating guitar passes. It evokes the image of built-up Inner City deprivation.

Flip the 12 Inch over and Wound ’91 almost has the melody (unintentionally, i’m sure) of Danielle Dax’s – Cathouse. It is punchy, yet still has that sound of Slateman. Heavily Industrial yet pushing to generate it’s own genre. Periods of ultra-low slung bass and drum machine phase in and out.

A 12 Inch Single that is, in an underground way, as essential as Blue Monday (New Order). Streetcleaner will not make my 20 Albums section (just) – but Slateman / Wound ’91 easily finds a place in my 20 Singles section.

Seek it out and either scratch your head – and / or enjoy.

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