Album #124: Cabaret Voltaire – Red Mecca

  • Released: 1981
  • Origin: Sheffield, England
  • Label: Rough Trade
  • Best Track: Black Mask

Sheffield has been a hell of a city for music over the years, and yet its contribution is not really celebrated in the same way as that of Manchester, Liverpool or even Bristol. Perhaps unlike those three cities, it hasn’t really developed a sound synonymous with the place, but has instead simply churned out a succession of high quality artists, from Joe Cocker, to the Human League, to Pulp, to the Arctic Monkeys.

Also hailing from the South Yorkshire City are Cabaret Voltaire, a band I’ve been meaning to give a listen to for a while now. Somewhat arbitrarily, I’ve settled on their third album Red Mecca, rated by some as their best.

First of all, I should make clear that this is an incomplete listen for me, and therefore an incomplete review. The fourth track ‘A Thousand Ways’ is infuriatingly missing from Apple Music, and I don’t seem to be able to find it on YouTube or anywhere else. At over 10 minutes it’s the longest track on the album, but unless you physically own the album, it seems a bit of a ghost.

For all I know, that could be the best or worst song ever written, but I don’t think it would change my view that Red Mecca is really good. The music is somehow melodic and dissonant at the same time, and always intense. ‘Red Mask’ and ‘Black Mask’ are both superb, and is the currently somewhat distastefully named ‘Spread the Virus’.

At times, Red Mecca reminds me of the sound of a dial-up internet connection, but that itself was strangely tuneful. I’ll have to keep searching for ‘A Thousand Ways’ is it grate on me that I technically haven’t “listened to” the album.

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