marchealAh Cubanate, remember them well. I still have 1st of the four albums they released Antimatter (1993) knocking around on cassette and caught them live on quite a few occasions. If their music doesn’t stick around particularly in your memory, if you saw them on stage with everyone from Carcass, to Sheep On Drugs, Leech Woman and others who escape my memory you will probably not have forgotten the confrontational manner of imposing front-man Marc Heal. One that particularly sticks in my memory was when they played Cambridge festival Strawberry Fair when motor-mouth called us all a bunch of soap dodgers and said we needed a dose in the army to sort us all out! Naturally this went down like a lead balloon making those drunk want to fight him and sending the rest of the crowd into an immediate bad trip. Since Cubanate combusted Heal has apparently battled his own personal demons, moved to Singapore, travelled the Far East and written his first book ‘The Sussex Devils’ getting acclaim from no less than Clive Barker in the process. Now he is back with his first solo album.

Lyrically, although he obviously is writing ironically considering the subject matter of songs such as ‘Tiananmen’ and its historic relevance it’s certainly of note that with the hard beats of the music body-popping away he continues to include divisive lyrical content, “why do you always wear black sonny, in my country it’s the colour of death.” Not quite as tribal and indeed industrial as past work, the music is far from forward thinking as you will note on the first wave of synth straddling it all. Basically it’s incredibly evocative of old Tubeway Army and to such an extent on each and every song you keep falling into the trap of waiting for a serenade from everyone’s favourite musical chameleon Gary Numan. Still if you are comfortable with that and why should you not be, as if you are going to be reminded of someone it may as well be the best, there’s some great songs here. The catchy and Gothic feel of ‘Katarina’s House’ with its much more sinister message is one such example. ‘Adult Fiction’ was chosen as single and once that chorus hits its obvious why as it’s the best single not done by Numan in many a year. Lyrically the anger is there in ten-fold, and this is where things really deviate from our favourite replicant, there’s no sci-fi fantasy land here just hard hitting facts, far from fiction that leave a bitter taste in their wake. The cold pulse of the synth lines are absolutely brilliant and this takes you right back on a retro trip to the late 70’s where for many of us our musical voyage of discovery truly began.

‘Model Citizen’ has harder hitting edges and a near EBM beat complete with an Orwellian militancy behind the lyrics; it uncomfortably and robotically controls. The real retro feel is never far away from the clapping Sheffield era futurist synth pop embellishments to songs like ‘Show Homes For Luxury Living’ which subject wise could have easily escaped from an early Human League or even Joy Division album. Heal has stories to tell and some songs such as ‘The Abandoned Junkshop’ are all the more interesting as you immerse yourself in them. Apart from the single it’s ‘Monoxide’ that sticks out as another firm favourite here as it has a pumped up catchy as hell chorus that really does what it says and gets right “under the skin.” Final song ‘Faithful Machinery’ amused the hell out of me too as basically it asks a question and that is “are friends electric” but he could hardly phrase it that way could he?

I went into this one with a bit of trepidation wondering if it was going to be good or simply wind me up; luckily it’s very much a case of the former. Looking ahead there are promised remixes, more material and no doubt performances at places like Slimelight at silly o’clock in the morning. If I survive any wrath from what I have said and Heal were to play somewhere accessible I would certainly be happy to go and catch him; I may wear a tin hat so any barbs flung off the stage bounce off though!

(7.5/10 Pete Woods)