Disco Inferno is one of those band’s bands. Lauded critically, admired by their peers, but largely ignored by the wider public during their brief existence in the early 1990s.
Formed in 1989 the band which eventually became a three piece started life as a sort of new wave Joy Division type band, singing about urban decay using sparse instruments.
As the riffs of Britpop rang around them during the 1990s they began to regress further into their world, using sampling and delay effects on their instruments.
The effect was certainly experimental, almost commercial but often inaccessible. The critical acclaim continued, but they never stepped out of their niche. By 1995 they were no more.
What we are left with is three albums, including the critically acclaimed D.I Go Pop and these five EPs, recorded between 1992 and 1994 and finally re-issued. These EPs are widely regarded as the peak of Disco Inferno’s powers. For example, when Pitchfork gave the 2004 reissue of DI Go Pop a rare 9.3 score the reviewer added: “And until someone gets around to reissuing those EPs, it’s a fine second step into Disco Inferno’s singular world.”
Fifteen years on there is a dated feel to the band’s increasing experimentation with sampling and delay effects on these EPs: Summer’s Last Sound, A Rock to Cling To, The Last Dance, Second Language, and It’s a Kid’s World.
I also wonder what all the fuss was about from the likes of Pitchfork and bands such as MGMT, who are to include a Disco Inferno track on their forthcoming Late Night Tales compilation.
At times lead singer Ian Crause’s lyrics and vocal style (basically talking) sound clichéd now. Think The Fall, with a nice guy fronting them and you are somewhere near the Disco Inferno sound on much of these five EPs. Musically the delay effects, particularly on guitar sound tiresome after a while. Like a kid who likes U2 and gets his first delay peddle for Christmas in 1985. The Blue Aeroplanes at the time also did this kind of speaking over sampling and delayed guitars trick much better. They after all had good tunes, something that seemed to pass Disco Inferno by.
But it’s not all over hyped delay peddling. Second Language is arguably the most accessible of the EPs. On Second Language’s title track the delay effect is a thing of beauty and Crause’s lyrics have a far more upbeat feel to them, even though he still sounds a little like Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine’s singer Jim Bob on a serious downer.
At the End of the Line on the same EP is another fine track, more of that delay effect on the guitar and lush sampling like rain falling. Lovely stuff as is A Little Something. This is a genuine feel good song, among so much sadness.
Title track on Final EP in the collection, It’s A Kid’s World, is probably my favourite. The nearest they get to the inferno their name promises. It’s an oddball, quirky, fun track with strings and oddities careering around the guitars. Such a shame the rest of this final EP is so horrible. A Night On the Tiles, with its Edith Piaf sample and glasses chinking goes nowhere and Lost in Fog does as it says on the label (that’s not a good thing to listen to by the way).
From a musical experimentation point of view D.I Go Pop on The Last Dance EP is superb, although a tough listen with Crause’s vocals struggling through a barrage of sampling. The title track on this EP is one I’ve gradually warmed to. What at first sounds like a weak New Order album filler has a real sincerity to it that has to be admired.
I’ve been listening to these a lot over the last few weeks and like the EPs more on each listen, even though I continue to think that much of the critical hype around them has been unjustifiably inflated.
But that’s just my opinion. I recognise that they are a much-adored band and whatever I think about their originality I applaud their attempts to buck the early 1990s Brit pop trend. And from a collector’s point of view it is more than welcome that One Little Indian has reissued these long since deleted EPs.
by Joe Lepper