Probably the highest praise for artists of a certain disposition is that it’s impossible for their audiences to tell whether they are being serious or simply taking the piss. This kind of ambiguity is prevalent among all the great alternative artists from New Order/Joy Division, The Fall and Throbbing Gristle to Larry Levan, Regis and Shed.
Perc is moving close to being part of this hallowed group and A New Brutality succeeds in pushing him a few steps nearer. Much of this is due to the title track and the questions it asks the listener. Are those tones at the start a sample of the TV test card or Perc fiddling with an insane frequency? Is Perc trying to reach Al Jourgensen-like levels of outlandishness with the grungy, industrial beats and is that the sound of a torture victim’s screams or just deranged, feedback noise?
On “Cash 4 Gold”, the questions continue, the uncertainty lingers. Is Perc satirising Britain’s army of Vicki Pollards or has he presented the listener with the hopelessness and desperation of working class life in modern-day England? Certainly amid the grubby, twisted broken beats it is almost possible to smell the stale chip oil mixed with the bang of overflowing ashtrays and unwashed armpits - is it funny, tragic or just fact?
Then he delivers two great contrasts: “Boy” is a visceral affair, its drums torn apart, the jarring riffs screeching in and the bass grainy and brutal. It’s nasty, and disturbing, and the polar opposite of the final track, “Before I Go”. Penned ostensibly as a farewell to this world and an escape from its brutality, its muffled piano sounds and beautiful but indistinct strings could be the sonic interpretation of someone slipping out of consciousness and departing this world. Then again, it could just be Ali Wells having a drunken laugh. We may never know – and that sums up the beauty of Brutality.
1. A New Brutality
2. Cash 4 Gold
4. Before I Go