Music Reviews
Unreleased Classics '78-'82

N.O.I.A Unreleased Classics '78-'82

(Ersatz Audio) Rating - 8/10

Great title. Like Aphex Twin's Classics and Selected Ambient Works Vol. I and II, it implies utter self-belief in your aims and sheer, unapologetic arrogance; there's no humbleness ('here's our latest album, we like it, hope you do too folks'); success isn't measured in units shifted; there's no pandering to the public's idea of what a classic band is (and let's face it, if wankers like Led Zeppelin can be classed as a classic band, half the general public don't even deserve to have ears, let alone dictate who reaches the upper echelons of their chosen field).

(Looking backwards...). What the title does say is 'this is great music, if you haven't heard it that's your loss and if you don't like it, that's because you're too clueless to understand how fucking great it actually is'. All bands should have such belief in their music; all albums should be considered by their makers as being classics or remain unreleased; all bands should be able to say without fear that 'this is our new single, it pisses on 99.9% of the music out there - you need this as much as we need you'. And if they can't, then they should fuck off back to their 9-5, because there are already enough bands making music just because they like being in bands or because they need the world to give them a big hug or, (in the case of some men) so that 15-year-old girls will suck their dicks backstage and reassure them that yes, you are as great as you want to be (and secretly know you aren't). No, really, you are.

(...does not negate...). Calling your album Unreleased Classics does set you up for a big fall if you can't deliver, but if you're making music that you want people to spend their meagre fun allowances on, then learn how to write great songs or get a fucking job. Anyway... a lazy reference point is that N.O.I.A. write songs that sound like Kraftwerk (one of the few electronic bands to be deservedly given classic status by the usually pedestrian mainstream). And as Kraftwerk were a truly great band, if N.O.I.A. can absorb their influence whilst adding their own input (which, generally, they do), accusations of pedantry are redundant.

(…moving forwards. See?). Atomkraft and Korowa Milk Bar (with its bizarre Twist and Shout vocal scale) introduce the album and are melodically approachable enough to lure in the unwary so that by the time that Be Alert and No Mistakes arrive, you're too far away from where you were to do anything but keep going. The relentless, vocoded Change Faster and the sinister, skulking-with-intent manifesto We Wanna Glow, are as relevant in today's climate as when they were first written (think minimalist Daft Punk with more distance, less disco), and No Mistakes is Jeans Team's Baby 3 through a krautrock lens, only written 20 years before.

To some extent, you know where these songs are going, which is far from being a criticism; there are no attempts to wrongfoot the listener or to do anything other than to pull you along with its direction (which is forwards always, but not exclusively); the momentum catches and liberates as it moves towards its conclusion (see West is the Best). Stop Thinking's patterns both complement and confuse; your expectations are led in such varying directions that you don't notice that you've been captivated until you're released. Some of the songs do, however, end absolutely ridiculously: the pleasing faux-grandeur of Be Alert concludes in the style of a bad keyboard demo, and Nagasaki Forced Fun 1945 (again, what a title!) is as purposefully inane as you'd imagine throughout, which works better as a concept than as a song. The latter is one of the weaker tracks on the album, alongside the cheesy melodies of Atomkraft (which is very much subservient to its influences) but they're both still pretty good and, amazingly, the album as a whole justifies the title.

West is the Best and Hunger in the East settle easily into a history in which they had no great part without sounding trapped in their time (maybe some of this is down to the fact that they're re-recorded versions of old tracks, but then I haven't heard the originals), and N.O.I.A. expertly practice puppetry on the listener in the best tradition of dance music (Stop Thinking!). So, to conclude: an album of 20-year-old songs that was recorded in the year 2000 and sounds like it was recorded yesterday, today and tomorrow all at once. With a great title. Is there anything else that you were after?