Add Insult To Injury

Add N To (X): what a long, strange (battery acid) trip it's been. And continues to be so.

Art or arse? It is the perennial question an outfit such as Add N To (X) must face in time. Four years and two critically praised albums in, does this genuinely alternative sound mined by sincerely surreal individuals still have the legs for a third?

Now, that’s not to imply ANTX are a mere novelty act long past their punchline, it’s just the musical ephemera (Moogs, vocoder, that keyboard/guitar hybrid thing), imagery (the machine age goes porn) and punnery (such as would cause even [I]NME[/I]’s subs department a glow of shame) that they’re so fond of are often the recourse of the hopelessly untalented; kitsch as the last bastion of the musical charlatan, if you will. And there were plans to have the album cover smell of grass (the mown kind). Hmmm.

Obviously reluctant to jettison the gimmickier stuff, single ‘Plug Me In’ is machine-shagging mayhem continued. ‘You Must Create’ is, like the mighty ‘King Wasp’, sexed-up, beatniky, low-slung scuzz-funk with novelty ‘space age’ bloops and squirks – [I]faux [/I]futurism with all the charm of an Ed Wood sci-fi spectacular. Indeed, much of the album is like some lysergically envisioned soundtrack for a François Truffaut, Roger [I]Barbarella[/I] Vadim or Ken Russell ’60s experimental movie.

No bad thing, obviously; but what really makes ANTX more than just a bunch of sub-Kraftwerkian lucky amateurs is their sheer musicianship. On ‘Monster Bobby’, they harness a bovver-boy glam stomp, complete with moronic yob chant – “Who are ya?/Who are ya?” – to create a somewhat gross but compelling vision of human experience. On ‘Kingdom Of Shades’, they’ve broadened their sound to include flutes and oboes with the futuristic keyboards and it’s as magically trippy as a jaunt in [I]Dr Who[/I]’s Tardis.

Album closer, the funereal, Dr Phibes-on-organ magnum opus ‘The Regent Is Dead’, could see them spearheading their own ‘machine gothic’ movement, were it not for the fact they really are very much on their own out there.

Add N To (X): what a long, strange (battery acid) trip it’s been. And continues to be so.

Gill Whyte