Alive On Departure
Wall To Wall
hh, the humble test card. Iconic image of an age when the British Broadcasting Corporation ruled the waves, and the concept of BBC News 24 was even more laughable than it is now (breezy conditions in Sussex? damnit, we’ll stay with this story ALL NIGHT if we have to!) A gentle lift of one or both of your eyes toward the top right corner of this very page will reveal that Instant Camera have recognised the beauty of the test card and adopted the distinctive colour-spectrum as their album cover. This same album features a track entitled “Terrorvision.” Could this be a clandestine reference to the ill-advised days of using a creepy child and her demonic clown companion on the test card? For now, let’s keep pretending that’s even remotely likely.
Unlike the BBC test card—which could happily drone on indefinitely until blood started spurting from your ears, or, worse still, until Kissyfur came on—Alive On Departure displays a healthy sense of urgency throughout. Nipping through the whole repertoire in just over half an hour certainly doesn’t do anything to dispel this sense of nervous haste, leaving the aforementioned “Terrorvision” sounding like a veritable epic when it nudges over four minutes. All of which is tremendously beneficial to the implied thematic aesthetics of anxiety, misdirection and paranoia—delivered in short, sharp, individual blasts. You can forget about being given any breathing space between tracks.
Raggedy-jaggedy guitars abound, refusing to settle on any particular chord or note for any length of time before flitting off to the next like twitchy butterflies. Manic keyboard lines strive for the same kind of intensity that propelled much of Magazine’s Real Life to stratospheres of greatness, hitting more often than they miss. And sing-out-loud moments appear with pleasing regularity, ranging from the exciting Supervillain potential of “Dr Glass” (‘Theeeey caaaall hiiim glaaaasss’) to the slightly perplexing refrain embedded in “Style Over Substance Abuse,” which sounds entirely too much like ‘haemorrhoids’ to me. Or ‘henna eyes.’ Um .. because that would make more sense, somehow.
“Working Class Zero” rightly eschews percussion as the tool of bourgeois oppressors, choosing instead to march on the Winter Palace and declare that the means of producing fuzzed-out feedback are now in safe hands. The furthest departure, however, is saved for a surprise twist ending. “Hearing is Disbelieving” rigorously examines the universal rule of accordions, confirming that, yes, using one will inevitably make your tune sound like a drunken pirate swagger. No bad thing in my book—just take any number of jaunty zombie ruffians from Monkey Island II as your reference point. Sailors of the damned, rejoice!
Rejoice indeed. It’s nervy, it’s speedy. It’s a swift slap to the chops combined with the underlying fear that your attacker has a deadly skin-transferred virus. It’s not just alive on departure, it’s positively kicking.
Reviewed by: Peter Parrish
Reviewed on: 2005-05-04