Clock DVA – “Advantage” (1983)

I’ve been flirting pretty heavily with industrial music lately, though I’m not confident enough yet in how I feel about it to ask it to go steady with me. Sonically it still seems a bit “dangerous” to me, which is both attractive and repellant at the same time. There are some genres that I seem to like almost no matter what – for example, I’ve yet to hear a dub record I think is bad. Industrial, however, might be the most polarizing of genres to my ears – when I like it, I love it; when I don’t I want to break the record over my knee, light it on fire, weld it into a lead lined container, and bury it in a hole (because I don’t have any way to launch it into space, aimed directly at the sun). This can lead to a decision making disorder at record stores as I go back and forth in my mind as to whether or not to spend some of my mildly hard-earned cash on some industrial wax. Which is exactly what happened when I picked up Clock DVA’s 1983 LP Advantage the other day at Silver Platters. But I rolled the dice, and this time it came up a winner.

It wasn’t a sure thing, though. Clock DVA are part of that generation of industrial bands from Sheffield, UK that followed on the heels of Trobbing Gristle, and frankly a lot of that early stuff is just too jarring for me. But Advantage was the first release of the second iteration of the band, following its first break-up in 1981 and the death by accidental drug overdose of one of the group’s two original members, Steven “Judd” Turner. I’m not familiar with their pre-Advantage material, so I can’t make any meaningful comparisons to their earlier works. However, Advantage falls on the “lighter” side of industrial, or at least it does to modern ears. The synths are used in a very new wavish way, and the bass lines are at times funky as hell (“Beautiful Losers”); it’s very much like the soundtrack to a film noir or some mildly unsettled near future dystopia (They’re talking aloud in the city / They know the resistance is here / They’re meeting in secret locations / Just out of fear). There’s some edginess here, almost like a more approachable Skinny Puppy, one that retains some pop sensibility (<- overused pretentious phrase alert!). In fact, now that I think about it, it’s kind of like ground zero for the work of the Icelandic band Legend, who took this to a darker place while still keeping it musically structured and precise.

Don’t think that Advantage is just run-of-the-mill industrial-lite, because it’s not. It has some dark elements, some percussions that sound like the drummer is using metal heads, and a fair dose of experimentalism. This is especially true on side B, where we start to hear saxophones added to the mix and a bass line moving a little away from funk and towards jazz. In fact, “Breakdown” may be the first ever industrial-dark wave-electronica-funk-jazz fusion (oh yeah, and it includes both male and female vocals). “Dark Encounter” is crooning free-form jazz – nothing industrial to see here at all. It’s actually hard to believe that sides A and B are both form the same band, let alone part of the same album, with the heavy influence and clarity of the bass and the moodiness of the vocals being the only two common elements.

I’ve already come back to Advantage a few times before writing this, which is actually a bit unusual for me. Normally I’m either already very familiar with the album or artist, or I do my writing just as I’m getting my first impressions of the record (sometimes playing it back-to-back if I like it or feel like I need to explore it more). But we first played Advantage maybe 3-4 weeks ago, liked it, and put it back on the “new arrivals” shelf to come back to. The fact that I re-visited Skinny Puppy’s Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse in the interim certainly may have influenced my thoughts on this record. But the disparity between the two sides is still astounding, making it more like two four-song EPs than one cohesive record. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. I prefer the more industrial side A, but the jazzier side B has a lot of depth to it and probably warrants further listens just to come to grips with it.

Leave a Reply