‘Is it serious?’ – in the sense of ‘not humorous’, perhaps not entirely. In the sense of ‘grievous’, ‘will I have to get the bus to hospital and sit in an overflowing emergency department full of alcohol casualties and hypothermic pensioners?’ – possibly so. Equally so in the sense of ‘will I have to go to Crown Court, could it bring a custodial sentence?’ There’s a strange ambivalence in our culture about the word ‘serious’.
When I was a much younger foolish person with few responsibilities (as opposed to the older foolish person who seems to have to keep their shit together), I spent a fair bit of time travelling the country for various nefarious purposes and operating on surprisingly narrow margins, I would often get on trains without a ticket. On one such journey, euphoric with a close call that could have landed me in custody, I met a ticket inspector about two stops from home.
The worst-case scenario was probably a fine, rendering the trip a net loss. Like a large financial organisation, or environment-polluting corporation, I had already mentally written this off as simply a cost of doing business. So, to the request for my ticket I simply answered ‘I don’t have one’ which was, in retrospect, probably an infuriating response. The inspector explained that I would probably have to pay a fine but seeing me still insufficiently perturbed for his liking he shouted, ‘You don’t seem to be taking this very seriously!’. When I hear the word ‘serious’ there remains, for me, a sense it’s something I don’t really understand about how people use the word, and the set of social interactions it seems to influence in some way.
So yes, Modern Addictions is a grievously serious album, but also has a dense core of nihilistic irreverence, a smile at the gleeful horror of the everyday. It draws the listener in with chaotic noisy fun times, and then opens into a much less comfortable space of emotional vulnerability, a deep humanism and honesty. Those familiar with Palehorse, Nitkowski and the assorted other outfits whose members have come together here will find Remote Viewing toiling away at that same bleak and harsh seam, picking apart the stitching at the edges of sludge and hardcore, staking a claim in both the experimental fringes and the hindbrain guts of heavy music.
With the label Human Worth putting the album out, Remote Viewing have perhaps found a good match for the sound – the London-based label is on a solid run of material from just this sort of carefully reckless music. I remember seeing bands like Palehorse who seemed to support everyone at the Underworld in some hazy Golden Age and wondering why there never appeared to be much of a taste for it beyond those twenty or so people who were there.
Maybe this is a new Golden Age where a wider audience finally exists… We can only hope for some degree of commercial success for this and all Human Worth’s endeavours, since in keeping with their ethos to date, there is a charitable donation from any sales, in this case, 10% going to the Trussell Trust. And maybe I’m stretching things here, but to my mind, there’s a correspondence between these good works through racket-making and the music to be found on Modern Addictions. Remote Viewing are not here to take us out dancing to forget, or to punch down at the weaker, but to speak to the raw experience of those on the edge. Or to quote the track Wasted On Purpose, ‘For my next trick / Clawing at the walls’.
Modern Addictions is a grievously serious album, but also has a dense core of nihilistic irreverence, a smile at the gleeful horror of the everyday…
In this cacophonous stew, a noise-rock churn of guitars shifts across the beat, before inflecting towards doom, now more aggro movement, sliding tempo-fluid between sections, resolving into moments of seeming clarity and honest emotion. A case in point would be Cleveland Balloonfest ‘86 (look it up) as it layers up an almost YOB-like progression, developing a weighty nod with concealed complexity and a strong emotional effect.
Contrast this with the raw rage of the blown-out punches thrown by Your Opinion Is Wrong and the yet-more-vicious vocals of Amée Chanter (Human Leather). Oh yes – seriousness/humour and song titles – Modern Addictions is another strong showing, although Remote Viewing seem to have dialled it down a little since the masterpieces of their previous album It’s Better This Way.
And there persists something of their sick humour in the visceral horror that always lurks. How does ‘we polish it up nice’ become so unhealthy and uncomfortable a thing to hear? But here at the sharp end, in the shivering hours before dawn, Remote Viewing have a few more miles of mud to drag us through, a growing vulnerability in your captor that makes the inevitable knife twist that bit more pitiful. And in the end, through all the teeth-grinding, we find ourselves standing in a yet more bleak space for the album’s final stretch as A.B.B.A. / ABBA finds something of Kowloon Walled City’s factory-floor and negative-space sound. Bright and yet despondent. Something much more abandoned than the taut American dream though, it’s more ditches by A-roads and hawthorn full of diesel dew.
Since buying the CD late one night, It’s Better This Way has settled into a steady rotation of ‘albums I put on getting home late and rowdy’ but I’m not sure that Modern Addictions will do the same. This is a much ‘bigger’ album than I had bargained for. This maybe speaks to its strengths, as Remote Viewing have used the carefully honed tools evident on that earlier work to a more devastating effect.
The excellent sound work (no surprise of quality given that Wayne Adams engineered it, then mastered by Stephen Kerrison of ANTA) is no small part of the impact, and although these songs may hold back on some of the disgust of their debut, there is a much more skilled handling of the fiercely naked emotion on show. With all their awkwardness and discomfort, Remote Viewing will certainly remain as not something for everyone, but they could, in the end, become something that speaks these truths more widely than before.
Scribed by: Harry Holmes