Atari Teenage Riot - Is This Hyperreal?
A compelling call to arms following ATR’s abrasive sonic formula
(Digital Hardcore Recordings)
Though Rage Against The Machine have been coaxed out of retirement, the tumultuous early 2010s have yet to provoke protest pop comparable to earlier decades’ years of upheaval. Just as the impetus behind RATM’s comeback was a Facebook campaign, Atari Teenage Riot’s taut-triceped frontman Alec Empire characterizes his band’s fourth album since 1992 as a ‘protest record for the Google age’.
A lot has changed since 1999’s 60 Second Wipe Out; ATR were yet to implode before losing founder member Carl Crack to an overdose, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were yet to be waged. Hell, the Twin Towers had yet to crumble in a baffling pile of girders and dust. Now internet usage is up 450%, uprisings are fomented on mobiles and popular scientists such as Susan Greenfield warn that generations suckled on computer games and social networking will struggle to function in the real world. Lyrically, Is This Hyperreal? touches on all subjects and more, the central thrust being an ambivalence towards the net’s potential for both liberation and tighter authoritative control. With the exception of the album’s cinematic title track, Is This Hyperreal? borrows very little from the slicker electro of Empire’s intervening solo material, and ATR’s original, mercilessly abrasive sonic formula remains largely unchanged. Recorded on an ancient Atari ST1040 computer with just 2MB ram, Empire, steely cool noise queen Nic Endo and new MC recruit CX KiDTRONiK respectively growl, squeal and rhyme over relentless speed metal riffs, stomach-cramping bass bludgeons and the mutilated synth sounds beloved of Dutch techno’s Human Resource.
It’s no easy listen certainly, and the ruthless brutality of tracks such as ‘Rearrange Your Synapses’ and the Slayer-esque ‘Only Slight Glimmer of Hope’ could be crass or borderline comedic had you forgotten that ATR originally formed in response to neo-Nazi thuggery and that Empire’s own grandfather perished in a camp. As his voice is layered over forty times to echo a Russian military choir, Endo asks on the bleeping, bleak closer ‘Collapse Of History’, ‘well, are you going to act, or just stare at your screen?’ A call to arms certainly, though you might just be too exhausted to pick up that banner.