The Cassandra Complex: Cyberpunx

July 5, 2007

Music Review By: Mr. Roboto

Year: 1990

Artist: The Cassandra Complex (Official Site)

Written by: The Cassandra Complex

Label: Play It Again Sam

Cyberpunx
Track listing:
1. Nice Work If You Can Get It – 3:36
2. Let’s Go to Europe – 2:18
3. Happy Days (War Is Here Again) – 1:24
4. Jihad Girl – 3:09
5. Sunshine at Midnight – 1:43
6. I Want You – 2:45
7. Sleeper – 4:03
8. Nightfall (Over Ec) – 3:27
9. Into the Heart – 3:37
10. I Believe in Free Everything – 3:26
11. What Turns You On? – 3:13
12. Ugly – 4:53


If you find similarities between this and Billy Idol’s CDs, that’s because there is some eerily close relations to the two: They’re both concept albums, both about cyberpunk, both were inspired by William Gibson’s Neuromancer, and both we’re commercial bombs. Being released three years before Billy’s CD, The Cassandra Complex made the attempt at a cyberpunk album that Mr. Idol could have taken notes from. While band leader Rodney Orpheus thought the concept was a great idea, an artistic clash between himself and the record label may have ruined it:

Overview: (from the Cassandra Complex website about the album)

Cyberpunx was that scariest of all things, a “concept album”; actually it was even worse, it was devised as a ROCK OPERA! I’ve always felt that rock’n’role lyrics are the worst kind of literature, and I wanted to try to write something that had the depth of a novel. So I put together the whole story of Cyberpunx as if it were an opera libretto, then wrote the songs to fit into sections of it.

Briefly, the story is set in a future war between the European Union and the Arab states, and is told through the eyes of one of the protaganists, an orphan boy who grows up in the jungle, becomes a European helicopter pilot, falls in love with a girl from the other (Arab) side, deserts, takes the girl to a space station where he gets her pregnant, gets brain damaged, becomes a hardcore criminal, and ends up as a dying in a hostage situation.

The record company hated the idea, and refused to release it in the form I wanted. After much argument and pressure from them I agreed to let them change the track order, drop some things etc. This was the worst decision I have ever made in my entire life, and I have regretted it ever since. The album as it is now is a bit of a bastardised version of what it should have been. It should have been magnificent, but it’s not. It is still a damn good record however, has some great stuff on it.

Incidentally, some of the tracks from this aborted story appeared on other records: Forests and Fire & Forget appeared on the Finland EP, Why and Lullaby appeared on the War Against Sleep album. Someday I’d like to piece the whole thing together as it was intended to be, including the full original story. And if I ever get the money, I’ll put the opera on the stage. We’ll see…

Typical suits, wouldn’t know art from shit.

It would have been interesting to see what the whole story would have sounded like, and the opera on stage… maybe Billy Idol is thinking the same thing for his CD. Cyberpunx, such as it is, is still an interesting listen even if All Music Guide considers the album “vaguely derivative” and “forgettable,” recommending it for die-hard industrial music fans. Now let’s run this mutha up the flagpole and see if it’s cyberpunk…

 

Nice Work… If You Can Get It: Track one is a little ditty about a person who murders a wealthy man then hacks his computer to steal his money (Back in car, I load the guy’s computer, ‘Course he keeps his passwords on a smart card Taped under the dash) and flies to Liechtenstein “Spending his money on a diamond mine.” Something many hackers probably dream of.

Let’s Go To Europe: It’s weird hearing this song, knowing it was written in the late 80’s, since the lyrics sound like a slam against modern America (You wrote a constitution and left it unread… Your only source of knowledge is T.V., You censor everything and think you are free). Back then, the US was at war in Iraq while a power-crazed president named George Bush was dictator. Nothing like the US today. ;)

Then again, Europe doesn’t get off easy either (There’s not much to Europe really, it’s so small).

Happy Days (War Is Here Again): What has to be the Bush family anthem, this short instrumental piece sounds almost like a celebration complete with a saxophone.

Jihad Girl: This is where the European helicopter pilot falls for the Arab girl, and when he suffers a mortal wound his thoughts turn to her for strength (Saw my insides in my hands, Survived by force of will, And by the thought of you), probably wishing she was like a robot (Wrap me in your arms of steel).

Sunshine At Midnight: The pilot and his Arab girl on the space station. Another short instrumental, with a bit of a Twilight Zone vibe to it. It segues smoothly to…

I Want You: Nothing cyberpunk here, just continuing the storyline where the pilot gets the girl pregnant.

Sleeper: Something about this song sounds like something from the Matrix or Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime (Someday the phone will ring, I’ll get my orders, I’ll come awake, And I’ll go home).

Nightfall (Over EC): An apocalyptic-sounding number of war in Europe (Jihad is coming, jihad is coming, The Third World War is coming home).

Into The Heart: A surprisingly guitar driven song with drugs (I snort some coke, It’s in my brain, Makes me feel alive, Makes the world insane) and a bit of violence (I got an Uzi, The only work of art, And on the handgrip, I paint my heart).

I Believe In Free Everything: The final instrumental offers voices lifted from some movies somewhere. Could be the anthem to the Free Software Foundation.

What Turns You On?: A serial killer gets sexually aroused murdering girls. ‘Nuff said. (My name is Ted Bundy… I liked to see the dead, And when I came in them, It’s like Jesus giving head).

Ugly: The hostage situation where the pilot dies (Here come the bullets), but not before he has one last say about the world (Your world is ugly). A rather ominous finale to the album.

 

Conclusion: With only five of the twelve tracks having confirmed cyberpunk lyrics, I’d have to say the album isn’t cyberpunk. But after learning what planned and how the record execs fucked it up, I’m only more interested in hearing the album as it was originally planned, complete with the storyline.

Hopefully, Rodney Orpheus will re-release Cyberpunx as he intended. As it is, it’s still worth a listen, it’s just not quite cyberpunk enough.

This post has been filed under Cyberpunk Music by Mr. Roboto.

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