Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Recycle 10: Sub-Culture


[Link removed 20 November 2012] (59 MB)

Factory Records FAC 133
Produced New Order
November 1985


1. Sub-Culture
2. Dub-Vulture
3. Sub-Culture (7" Edit)
4. Dub-Vulture (7" Edit)
5. Sub-Culture (Record Mirror Exclusive Mix)

1 and 2 sourced from Rough Trade DE 45 RPM 12" RTD 023 T
3 and 4 edited from elements of 1 and 2
5 sourced and edited from an unofficial CD-R created by a certain remix service

1 - 4 EQ matched to

After the brilliance of The Perfect Kiss, things went from the sublime to the ridiculous. Sub-Culture was a good, albeit flawed, song from
Low-Life and an ideal choice for a single, now that the band was putting singles on albums (or would that be pulling singles from albums?) With their now-trademark sequences and riffs, the strong melody is somewhat let down by Bernard's rather poor vocal performance. While he's never been known for technical perfection, he's alarmingly off-key in this song at certain points. Evidently remixer John Robie thought so too, for he did everything he could to bury the original vocal in the 12" mix. Unfortunately, the results weren't really any improvement.

While it's customary for remixes to be jazzed-up and to focus on different elements, the 12" remix of this was pushed so far over the top that it fell back down, crashed onto the floor, and shattered into a thousand pieces. At least, that's what it sounds like. Much like a written work where every sentence ends with exclamation marks!!, there's just far too much embellishment and hardly any substance here (pun not intended). Robie hired backing vocalists to drown out Barney, and they sound very out-of-place on a New Order track. He peppered the piece with jarring orchestra hits, pointless fills, and other needless effects. The bass sequence was delayed by a sixteenth note which only adds to aural chaos, and countless abrupt jump-cut-esque edits were done, mimicking an effect which was very fashionable for about 15 minutes in the mid '80s. mid '80s. mid '80s. for aboutfor aboutfor aboutfor aboutfor aboutffffffffffrrrrforforforforforforforforforforfor for for *TIGHT!*. In essence, the A-side already sounds like a just-throw-the-two-track-in-the-blender dub version, and thus the B-side is just completely absurd, eventually decaying into a blast of solid noise.

I find this quickly gets very tiresome. Seems that just about everyone agrees, for the song was edited down to under 5 minutes for the
Substance compilation, and the B-side was not included on the CD at all. Having said that, much better remixes of the song do exist, but they were never issued commercially. The R*zorm*id DJ remix service did three different versions of this song, and one of them came out on a 7" 33 RPM EP (along with three other songs by other artists) which was included as a freebie with an issue of Record Mirror magazine in the UK. I think most people will agree that this is a tremendous improvement over the absurd 12" version. The original EP sounds pretty bad due to the limitations of the format, but fortunately the R*zorm*id mixes were made available in the form of an unofficial CD-R release a few years back, so we have the RM version here in pristine quality.

One other unique thing about Sub-Culture is that it has no proper sleeve, which is quite unusual for a group and label that put so much effort into visual presentation. Allegedly, sleeve designer Peter Saville was so unimpressed with the song that he refused to create any artwork for it. I have no idea if that's true or not, but it wouldn't surprise me either way. :)

I think Subculture gets a bum rap because the remixes are so jarring and over the top. However, it's one of those songs that really shines in a live context. I think the band missed an opportunity with this single. With a re-recorded vocal and more traditional/danceable mixes a la the 5th mix, this could have been a hit. While it topped the indie singles chart in the UK, it only reached #63 in the traditional singles chart.

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