Thursday, 6 August 2015

Deviation Social - Compilation Tracks 1982-85 (2010)

Deviation Social were by their - or rather his - own admission, hardly prolific, releases being limited to a couple of cassettes and a lonely 7" selling more as a vague trickle than anything invoking images of hot cakes, but nevertheless they - or rather he - seemed to be a name for a little while back there, sneaking in under the radar of general weirdy music in the spirit of Throbbing Gristle just before somebody suddenly decided that it was not only all industrial but that it was a movement. I refer specifically to Throbbing Gristle because, aside from anything, more or less every fanzine review described Deviation Social as their tribute band. Whilst it's true that Arshile Injeyan's influences were worn pretty much on the sleeve, also incorporating SPK and the like, the Gristle-isms are more apparent in the presentation which, if lavish, spoke of the customary Porridgey fixations whilst insisting that Deviation Social were a multi-media enterprise rather than a pop band, because you know how we all used to have such trouble telling the difference between Abba, the Rollers, Racey, and some bloke stood on a stage holding a skull whilst talking about Charles Manson through an echo delay. Well, we were all young once, so never mind.

Having been predisposed to appreciate a Throbbing Gristle tribute band, I would have loved to have got my hands on one of those tapes, but I was still at school at the time, my income being pocket money and the wages of a paper round. The first cassettes I ever sent for through the post were paid for by getting my mum to write out a cheque, and so sending for stuff from America always seemed like it might be taking the piss somewhat, what with the currency and everything. Still, I got there in the end, seeing as we now live in the age of nothing quite staying past tense forever, and I suppose it was worth the wait for this stuff to rematerialise on lovely thick slabs of vinyl.

So there's a track called She Wants To Be With Manson, and the previously mentioned pretence of being a corporate art assault unit rather than merely some bloke with a few effects pedals, and there's the tediously inevitable recurrence of the number twenty-three; but, you know - musically Deviation Social weren't significantly more a karaoke Gristle than any number of other bands of the time, at least no more so than Gristle were themselves karaoke Hawkwind. There's a reliance on unsettling tapes of speeches made by bad guys, which - let's face it - was a trick pulled by everyone and their fucking milkman at the time, but Deviation Social definitely had the makings of being their own distinct entity in these tracks, and might have been remembered as such had they just been a bit more prolific. There's not much in the way of tunes here, at least not tunes for the sake of tunes, and there are a lot of grating electronics and effects without the disadvantage of Porridge reducing everything to an exercise in studied irony. Deviation Social was, roughly speaking, power electronics before power electronics became a formula, and oddly some of it also reminds me of very early Devo.

This isn't the greatest, most original record you will ever buy, but you could do a lot worse, and it's still a mystery how Deviation Social seem to have been generally overlooked, not least in a world in which people still bother with utter pish like Sleep Chamber.

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