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Godflesh – Streetcleaner (Redux Edition)

“Redux” is an interesting name for Earache’s reissues. Other labels use more obvious terms – “deluxe edition”, “expanded edition” – to connote added value. “Redux”, to me, isn’t immediately positive. “Re” reminds me of words like “recycle” or “reheat”, which reissues arguably do. Indeed, Merriam Webster simply defines “redux” as “brought back”. In this case, that means “selling you the same thing twice”. However, Dictionary.com adds a second nuance to the definition: “resurgent”. That sense applies, more or less, to the Redux edition of Godflesh’s Streetcleaner.

I say “more or less” because all the audio on its bonus disc is technically inferior to that of the original. (For the first disc, Justin Broadrick remastered the album proper, making it slightly louder without harming the sound. That’s fine – but why do it? There was nothing wrong with the original.) The bonus disc contains unreleased mixes of Streetcleaner‘s first side, two live cuts, three rehearsal tracks, and two demos. None of these versions match their album counterparts in power.

“Christbait Rising” (Original)

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“Christbait Rising” (Redux Remaster)

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Yet these versions are interesting in their own ways. The unreleased mixes are not interesting, actually. They are not that different from the final versions. Usually the biggest difference is choice of snare in the drum machine. For those who’ve internalized Streetcleaner‘s sound, it may be weird to hear snares go “ting”, not “thud”. But one acclimates soon enough, and the differences in EQ and reverb settings are more curiosities than anything. Broadrick himself admits in the liner notes that he doesn’t know why these mixes went unreleased. So peek at this slightly alternate universe if you must, but be glad that the released versions were, well, released.

On the other hand, the live cuts and rehearsal tracks are thrilling. Streetcleaner is utterly suffocating, so hearing it live is like, say, watching a feral child walk around a city. What was once pure suddenly has a context. The live cuts sound like warfare in the next town over; the rehearsals sound like warfare in front of your face. The latter are raw, almost like lo-fi black metal, and have that unique sound of cassette tape pushed into the red. (Anyone who’s ever multi-tracked on cassette tape is familiar with such compression.) It’s an ugly sound, but an interesting one. What was once deep and monolithic is now a stinging slap.

“Christbait Rising” (Unreleased Mix)

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“Christbait Rising” (Rehearsal 1989)

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Back on the original hand, the guitar and drum machine demos are worthless. They are skeletal to the point of embarrassment. Seeing Picasso’s five-second napkin sketch for Guernica might be interesting for some. But I want to tell these demos to put on some clothes and to come out when they’re decent.

The bonus text is also a mixed bag. It includes a music journalist’s essay that’s as insightful as it is badly written. Amidst a muck of adjectives and endless sentences are astute observations about the record. The comparison to Black Sabbath’s debut – also one of the purest albums ever recorded – is apt. On the other hand, Broadrick’s notes (not really an “interview”, as the cover sticker states) are frustratingly brief. He sheds some light on the recording details (time, place) of these alternate versions, but no insight on the important stuff – the band’s mindset at the time, what he thinks of the album now, and so on. The definitive history of Streetcleaner remains unwritten.

. . .

. . .

I’m not sure if I ever want it written. The modern trend in recorded media is “more is more”. DVD’s come with deleted scenes, directors’ commentaries, and other bonus material. CD reissues come with demos and live tracks, often appended to the same disc as the album. I recognize the concept of “value adding”, but I don’t ever want to see Master of Puppets reissued with demo tracks tacked on at the end. That album – that experience – begins with “Battery” and ends with “Damage, Inc.”. Even if listening is purely an opt-in activity, that disc should stop spinning after “Damage, Inc.”. It shouldn’t continue on to detritus that missed the cut in the first place. Casablanca, my favorite film, is perfect as is. I wouldn’t want to spoil its perfection by seeing an alternate ending.

Or would I? The DVD of The Descent – admittedly not perfect, but, in my eyes, still good – contained two endings to the movie. Either could have worked for me. Should the filmmakers have just chosen one for the sake of artistic purity? Or were they justified in using different endings for different markets, based on test audiences? (See discussion of this phenomenon here.)

Your favorite classic metal album gets reissued. Do you want it (a) remastered to be louder so as to compete with today’s recordings, and/or (b) to include demos, live tracks, and other adjunct material?

— Cosmo Lee

. . .

Buy Streetcleaner Redux

Amazon
Earache (EU)
Earache (US)

. . .

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