Ashley Reaks proved he was not a man to satisfy any mainstream audience with his last album, the excellent ‘Power Failure’. ‘Compassion Fatigue (1-8)’ is his most recent project and one which follows a pattern of the first track being written in key “A” and lasting one minute, then the next in key “B” for two minutes and so on. Reaks also promises “at least two songs about psychopaths” and – just like his last album – the results are more addictive than you might think. Unlike his former stint with 90’s band Younger Younger 28s though, Radio 1 are perhaps not on red alert for his latest endeavours.
The title track jump starts the record with the familiar rubbery basslines and intense delivery which distinguished ‘Power Failure’ and then there’s a shift in gear and genre, as well as a note shift, for the new wave-style ‘The World The Dead Has Made For Us’. ‘Cold Body Pussycat’ twists The Archies’ ‘Sugar Sugar’ into a creepy, post-punk nursery rhyme (“Mummy, Mummy, Mummy. There’s a pain in my tummy. I’ve been eating pussycat off a cold body”) whereas ‘Wrong ‘Un’ mixes similarly madness-inspired words against a frenetic woodwind backing. All of this makes a suitably intense experience and we’re only ten minutes into the album.
The “second half” flirts with Jah Wobble’s taste for World music with some strident, throbbing rhythms. Towards the end of the song, the regular Reaks’ collaborator, Maria Jardardottir, adds some wonderfully oddball improvised vocals too. Then, in another incongruous twist, ‘Street Cleaning’ references M’s ‘Pop Muzik’ but otherwise the prog-punk polyrhythms and Reaks’ unhinged delivery tend to dominate as they do on the ska-inflected and crudely-humorous ‘Joyless Joy’. So the only shock on final track ‘Disconnected’, is that the invention seems rather toned down and playful by comparison.
‘Compassion Fatigue (1-8)’ will be one the most challenging and original albums anyone could hear this year, or indeed any year. It isn’t quite as approachable or hook-heavy as ‘Power Failure’ but then you sense that Reaks is trying to detach himself from his potential “crap pop star” past as much as possible. Suffice to say, he has succeeded with some style.
Public Image Ltd