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.

Album Preview – Nine Inch Nails: Year Zero

April 11, 2007

Music Review By: Mr. Roboto

Year: 2007

Artist: Nine Inch Nails

Written by: Trent Reznor

Label: Nothing/Interscope

Year Zero

Official Site: nine inch nails: year zero

Track listing:
1. “Hyperpower!” – 1:42
2. “The Beginning Of The End” – 2:47
3. “Survivalism” – 4:23
4. “The Good Soldier” – 3:23
5. “Vessel” – 4:53
6. “Me, I’m Not” – 4:52
7. “Capital G” – 3:50
8. “My Violent Heart” – 4:19
9. “The Warning” – 3:38
10. “God Given” – 3:50
11. “Meet Your Master” – 4:08
12. “The Greater Good” – 4:52
13. “The Great Destroyer” – 3:17
14. “Another Version Of The Truth” – 4:09
15. “In This Twilight” – 3:33
16. “Zero-Sum” – 6:14


Credit should go to Vesper who posted this thread about Trent Reznor’s upcoming album. As the anticipated release date of April 17 draws closer, there have been numerous sites along with the leaked tracks that have been generating a lot of buzz. So much so that the terminally clueless RIAA has been ordering the sites to stop the viral campaign.

 

I AM TRYING TO BELIEVE

It started in February with a simple phrase, whose individual letters were highlighted on the backs of concert t-shirts. For those who were able to figure out that it was a website and logged into it, they are suddenly thrust into a Parepin-induced frenzy where an anti-bioterrorism drug is suspected of causing people to see “The Presence.” Since then, USB thumbdrives were found in bathroom stalls at NIN concerts, containing unreleased songs. The titles of the songs lead to more websites, and those who did spectrographic analysis of the songs found other clues and signs like a phone number for the “U.S. Wiretap” and “The Presence.” Now, all the pieces fit as the album can be heard in it’s entirety at the official site, along with a trailer and a video for “Survivalism.”

 

“Survivalsim” video from YouTube. Uncensored for your enjoyment. U.N. Bureau of Cyberpunk.

 

With all this hype surrounding Year Zero, is there really any reason why it should appear here @ Cyberpunk Review? There’s plenty to take away from the websites, and from the song lyrics.

 

Overview: “Year Zero” is 2022 after the US Government establishes a new calendar system to be used worldwide. A ricin-based “dirty bomb” is set off at the Academy Awards in 2009, and the US retaliates by nuking Iran and North Korea. When the remaining Muslim nations declare a jihad, the government adds a Cedocore-made drug called “Parepin” into the water supplies, claiming it would negate biological and chemical agents terrorists use. The government also begins stripping constitutional rights by passing the “Emergency Measures Act.”

To escape the religious insanity, people start using another Cedocore-made drug known as “Opal,” which replaces cocaine as the drug of choice. Somewhere between the Parepin and the Opal, people begin seeing “The Presence,” a god-like hand that reaches down from the skies and appears to be grabbing the ground or trying to claw it.

Accoring to the NINWiki, Trent Reznor describes how the album began to take shape:

“This record began as an experiment with noise on a laptop in a bus on tour somewhere. That sound led to a daydream about the end of the world. That daydream stuck with me and over time revealed itself to be much more. I believe sometimes you have a choice in what inspiration you choose to follow and other times you really don’t. This record is the latter. Once I tuned into it, everything fell into place… as if it were meant to be. With a framework established, the songs were very easy to write. Things started happening in my “real” life that blurred the lines of what was fiction and what wasn’t. The record turned out to be more than a just a record in scale, as you will see over time.

Part one is year zero. Concept record. Sixteen tracks. All written and performed by me, produced / programmed by me and Atticus Ross, mixed by Alan Moulder, mastered by Brian “Big Bass” Gardner. Release date: April 17, 2007.

What’s it about? Well, it takes place about fifteen years in the future. Things are not good. If you imagine a world where greed and power continue to run their likely course, you’ll have an idea of the backdrop. The world has reached the breaking point – politically, spiritually and ecologically. Written from various perspectives of people in this world, “year zero” examines various viewpoints set against an impending moment of truth. How does it sound? You will hear for yourself soon enough, but given the point of this document is to provide information…

This record is much more of a “sound collage” than recent efforts from me.

A lot of it was improvised.

It is very tedious describing your own music.

It’s not just music.

It’s probably too long, but it felt like the right thing to do to paint the complete picture.

It will sound different after a few listens.

You can think about it and it will reveal more than you were expecting.

You can dance to a lot of it.

You can fuck to a lot of it (maybe all of it depending on what you’re into).

 

OK, So what about the music? Let’s start at track #1: Hyperpower! A term used to describe a nation like the United States, who dominate the world’s economics and politics. This track gets things off on the right foot with its crunchy drum-and-guitar march, ending with a sonic riot.

The Beginning of the End gives a good rock track, and a bit of a warning of Big Brother’s eavesdropping abilities: Watch what you think, they can read your mind.

Survivalism presents mostly drums and electronics while Trent’s voice marches through lyrics like Hypnotic sound of sirensEchoing through the streetThe cocking of the riflesThe marching of the feetYou see your world on fireDon’t try to act surprisedWe did just what you told usLost our faith along the way and found ourselves believing your lies.

The Good Soldier is a bit more relaxed, while a soldier has second thoughts about what he feels about his nation and the direction it’s heading (I am trying to believe).

Vessel gives more electronic distortion as Trent describes being a vessel: I can leave all of this flesh behindI can see right through this whole façadeI am becoming something elseI am turning into God. That should take care of the transhuman element.

Me, I’m Not has Trent fearing the changes: And I’m losing controlI’m not used to thisWhat you want from me?

Capital G. As in George Bush, Jr. who decides to screw the constitution in 2008 and go for a third term to continue his dirty work. Sounds like a D’uh’bya supporter rapping: Don’t try to tell how some power can corrupt a personYou haven’t had enough to know what it’s likeYou’re only angry cause you wish you were in my positionNow nod your head because you know that I’m right—all right!

My Violent Heart is mostly soft, but gets power during the choruses. Trent tells the powers that be that he does not intend to go quietly, and if he does, there will others: On hands and kneesWe crawlYou can not stop us all.

The Warning has a visit from “The Presence,” in verse form: Some say it was a warningSome say it was a signI was standing right thereWhen it came down from the sky. The last few lyrics are a warning to the powers that be: We’ve come to interveneYou will change your ways and you will make amendsOr we will wipe this place clean

God Given plays up the “We’re right, they’re wrong” mentality of religion (Put your faith in meI sure wouldn’t want to bePraying to the wrong piece of woodYou should Get where you belongEverything you know is wrong) while inviting you to “Come on, sing along everybody now!”

Meet Your Master holds someone hostage: You’ll put on this blindfoldYou’ll do what we tell youYou’ll do as your told.

The Greater Good sound like a Zen exercise put to electronic noise: Breathe us inSlowlySlowly… PersuasionCoercionSubmissionAssimilation.

The Great Destroyer has Trent being interrogated, but holding a deadly secret: I hope they cannot see The limitless potentialLiving inside of meTo murder everythingI hope they cannot seeI am the Great Destroyer.

Another Version of the Truth is another instrumental track; An eerily quiet piano piece.

In This Twilight has Trent feeling the end approaching, and wonders what he could have done to make things better: As your time is running outLet me take away your doubtYou can find a better place.

Zero-Sum brings the CD… and the World of Year Zero… to a bitter end. But something about the chorus leaves me thinking that this “reality” was only a simulation: For all we have doneAnd all we ever wereJust zeros and ones.

 

Conclusion: This latest offering from Trent certainly has the potential to be a classic concept album like Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime. All the work to create the future world dystopia definitely gives an intensity to the the tracks. Give Year Zero a listen at the official site and see if you agree.

If you want to see all the sites connected to Year Zero, just head for the NINWiki as your start point, and prepare to lose yourself in Opal, Parepin, and “The Presence.”

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

Cyberpunk: Billy Idol

March 4, 2007

Music Review By: Rover

Year: 1993

Artist: Billy Idol

Written by: Billy Idol

Label: EMI Special Products


Cyberpunk Album Screen Capture

 

 

SFAM NOTE: We welcome new reviewer “Rover,” who uploaded this music album review into the Review Forum. If others are interested in joining the review team, please post a message in the review forum.

 

Overview: I guess that everybody has heard about this album? It was released in 93, under the title Cyberpunk by a guy who had until here made only rock’n roll stuff. Some said that Billy used the Cyberpunk thing only for the hype effect, some cyberpunks enjoy this album…Personally, this is how I discovered CP, so I’ll always cherish this album Razz

Well, the question is, is this album CP or not?
Let’s analyze each of the songs…

 

1) Wasteland: ~lyrics~ a few lines are clearly CP, and promote hacking: “In VR law, computer crime, so sublime…” but the rest of the song has a lot of possible interpretations. It’s about a sort of missionary who wants to bring religion and hope into ‘the wasteland’…This reminds me of this street preacher in the movie Johnny Mnemonic. Perhaps the wasteland is supposed to be a futuristic shanty town, or to symbolize the fall of human relations because of the rise of technology? Anyway, I don’t really think that religion and CP have a lot of things in common. Here, I have the feeling that Billy wants to bring back to human life the cyberpunks??

Tune: not CP…maybe a few elcetronical sounds.

2) Shock to the System : ~lyrics~ Yeah, Billy wants to make a revolution! Don’t forget that in cyberpunk there’s punk…

Tune: Billy added some sounds (flamethrower, police sirens…) to a guitar tune, and this sounds inventive enough to be CP to me.

Music Video: if this is not CP, then what the hell is CP? Machines, riot, cops, special effects made by Stan Winston (he worked on the Terminator movies)…

 

3) Tomorrow People: ~lyrics~ this song evokes to me a post-apocalyptic future (World War III, a scifi story/a dirt colored sky…), but it could also be about video games: “I like to fight, I kill global oppression, if I quit, no hope of redemption”…Anyway, the sadness and the despair are CP: “blue eyes crying in the rain”, “I lost my love, lost my hold, I lost my heaven too”…I can picture a replicant from Blade Runner saying that.

Tune: Some strange sounds and voices in the beginning which could be considered CP…

 

4) Adam in Chains: ~lyrics~ The long intro of the song reminds me of zen philosophy, and the rest doesn’t make much sense…

Music video: Sorry, I can’t find any links anymore, but there was a music video where you saw a guy jacked into virtual reality: that’s CP, but this doesn’t explain the lyrics ^^

Tune: The sounds fit with the music video, and it’s appropriated to listen while surfing

 

5) Neuromancer: ~lyrics~ The song is a reference to Gibson’t book…the lyrics deliver the same message, so, yep, that’s CP.

Tune: Some strange voice (that remind me of Deus Ex Machina in Matrix), and some electronical sounds…yes, this could be CP, but it sounds less CP than any techno song.

 

6) Power Junkie: ~lyrics~ A song about drugs…Drugs are important in CP, most of the characters are addicted. But to make a true CP song, I think that Billy should have mixed drugs and technology for example.

Tune: it doesn’t really sound CP. Billy made a big creativity effort toward the end, where you hear a very strange voice, and he also played with the right-left effect (gotta listen to this with headphones)

 

7) Love Labours On: ~lyrics~ Title says it all, it’s a song about love….I tried really hard, but I can’t see the link with CP

Tune: it sounds like an emo songs…I dunno many Cp guys who are emos, though.

8 ) Heroin: ~lyrics~ Another song about drugs. The line “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine” matches with the Cp philosophy, and near the end of the song you can hear Billy say something like “VR hell heroin”: what if he wasn’t talking about drug addiction, but about computer addiction?

Tune: Some parts of it have a strong techno influence

 

9) Shangrila: ~lyrics~ A song full of hope and love: somewhere there’s a magic place where we can live and love forever. That’s not CP. But….maybe this magic place is supposed to be cyberspace? If Billy’s seeking this heaven, maybe that’s because his real life is an urban hell?

Tune: a strong oriental influence, but it doesn’t sound CP

 

10) Concrete Kingdom: ~lyrics~ No hope, no love in our modern world…This is CP. Plus, at one moment, Billy sings “what’s for my son?”: it means that he fears the future, because he knows it’ll be even darker than our world…
tune: Billy worked with the voices once again, making them sound like in a techno song by moments

 

11) Venus: ~lyrics~ Venus was a goddess…well, how is this supposed to be CP? It’s a personal interpretation, but from a CP point of view, Venus could be an A.I.

Tune: this sounds too classic to be CP

 

12) Then the Night Comes: ~lyrics~ Err…I can’t see any clear link with CP. Maybe with the underground thing? You know, CP have fun at night and go crazy because they don’t give a damn about authority…I’m not sure that it was what Billy meant however^^

Tune: strange rock’n roll…it sounds cool, but not CP

 

13) Mother Dawn: ~lyrics~ A sort of hymn to the Nature…this sounds more like a Disney movie than anything CP related.

Tune: a soft song, nothing related with any form of CP music…

 

Is it Cyberpunk? In the end, 8 songs out of 13 could be considered as CP…that’s more than half, so for me, this album is CP. But I agree that this conception mainly depend on the personal interpretation: I think that some songs unintentionally sounded CP (Venus for example). A few musical elements could be CP, but when you listen to the whole album, the feeling that remain toward the tune isn’t really CP. I don’t think that Billy used the word cyberpunk for the commercial effect because of the Shock to the system music video, which is the proof that he had understood and believed in cyberpunk.

Any opinions about this album? I know that a lot of people hate it.


This post has been filed under Cyberpunk Music by SFAM.

What to do about Cyberpunk Music and Cyberpunk Art…

October 6, 2006

Electric Dragon

 

First off, let me apologize for the lack of updates. Nothing serious has happened, just an insane number of little events. Hopefully this is slowly passing. Now, on to the post…

A few days ago, Mattness PM’d me in the Meatspace about the possibility of using Wikis for the site. While I really like the idea of conducting reviews for “finished” products like movies, books and graphic novels, I don’t know that this works all that well for music, and possibly even for cyberpunk art. I’m wondering how you all feel about building a wiki for people to post a listing of cyberpunk bands. Perhaps we could even group them in a number of different ways based on style or location. Bands could list their Myspace sites, or provide links to music tracks, etc. If we could tie this to discussions in the forum, this would be even better in the sense that people could hear the music and discuss.

Is this something that would be of use to people or is there something like this already? If so, let me know so I can link to it. If not, all you cyberpunk band types that stop by here, would this be something you’d be interested in participating in?

This post has been filed under Cyberpunk Music by SFAM.