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This Heat - Deceit

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Artist: This Heat

Album: Deceit

Label: These

Review date: Mar. 31, 2002

Implicit in punk’s program of negation is affirmation: That world, that music is bad. We reject it. We can, must, will do better. Quite a promise in a world worth hating: a world remade, aesthetically thus politically.

But the bargain’s fulfillment is too often too trite, and understandably: are you gonna stumblebumble outta your garage or art school and start a revolution? The Ramones did, but who else? (And does sniffin’ glue count as politics?) Any of the Brit socio-politico-critico-theoro-as-music-o? (OK, Wire, but not the Clash, not Gang of Four.) Really now: how feasible is a program that calls for the defeat of the Old and the creation of the New, each ’n’ every time?

Which all made it too tempting to cream my britches about last year’s reissue of This Heat’s seminal (?) Deceit. (Say it three times fast. Ha.) An attempt to remake the material-musical world from the ground up, Deceit too often reads like an Ex album title, blueprints for a blackout, rather than the thing itself. But still!

This Heat disguises its roots not too well. Mighty drummer Charles Hayward came out of the British prog-jazz-improv scene (and his vox are a lil much of Robert Wyatt’s unmanned floatiness for comfort), and his band’s purported songs are geeky convolutes more than punked powers: dense, confusing things that mass together messes of tape edits, discomfiting gtr intervals, vocal duelings and ululations and asymmetries, drones, screams, syncopations, all mussed up by a weirdo Marxism that presents spectacle as so it might destroy itself by force of irony. Slogans torn from commercials or the Declaration of Independence, commented on by the queasiness that underpins.

Problem: there isn’t much raw power here, not much knock-you-on-your-assness, not much destroy the old ’n’ ossified, only obliqueness and strategy. Their previous “Health and Efficiency” single takes the shortest distance between two points, a jagged line; Deceit jags but don’t get there. And punk, whatever it is, demands directness with its discursiveness: rock!

But still: all that other stuff! This Heat had it, Deceit has it. Difference and affirmation, even if not enuff negatory stuff. A dawn for tomorrow that can’t quite set the sun on today.

By Sam Frank

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