Saturday, August 12, 2006

Consolidated/Disposable Heroes/Emergency Broadcast Network

Party Like It's 1991
-Or, Play That Funky Music, Whiteboy.
(this is an article I wrote for a now-defunct local independent alternative weekly - alas, they folded before rejecting or running it. - downloads after the sermon)

A couple of cool used CD finds have prompted me to remember a short slice of time in the early nineties.
Back in the Bush I regime there was a burst of highly politicized industrial/hip-hop and aggro-rock that seemed to have a common thread and sound. A lot of it took cues from Public Enemy, who were titans in the hip-hop world and also at the center of most anti-rap controversy.
So perhaps in light of that, they were an understandably appropriate template for the burgeoning proto-industrial (semi)white-boy rap scene to adopt.

Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprosy - Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury

The Disposable Heros of Hiphoprisy emerged from singer Michael Franti's earlier, punkier project The Beatnigs and even updated their Television (the Drug of the Nation) on their debut album Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury. Franti is a powerful and authoritative rapper, not unlike P.E.'s Chuck D. And- like P.E.- most songs sound like a CNN report, with almost statistical reportage of the state of Bush I's America. They also cover the Dead Kennedy's California Über Alles to feature then-Governor Pete Wilson. Co-conspirator Ronald Tse (what happened to him?) provides ample fat, double-tracked beats and samples to great effect.

Consolidated - Friendly Fascism

Industrial dance saints Consolidated sound very much like Disposable Heroes during this period, and even name-check Franti on the opening track to Friendly Fascism. Consolidated have a tendency to let the politics of their lyrics- and especially given the high ratio of samples to music- outweigh musical form. Like a Crass album, musicality takes a back seat to the message, but here the music is very good. And like with a peace-punk band, the listener runs the risk of being hit over the head with lefty dogma, no matter how like minded they are or how heartfelt the conveyed sentiments may be. This time around it's male chauvinism, meat, vegetarianism, meat, racism, meat, fascism, meat, abortion rights and more, not necessarily in that order. The whole album is interspersed with soundbites that seem to be about the band and the many confrontations they encountered in the media and apparently at their own shows. Although the band centers its sound around hip-hoppish dance music, it occasionally turns the dial over to Ministry-ish aggro-metal and feel-good hippy rock. One hilarious song, College Radio, laments the state of that formerly cool medium with funny, ironic lyrics.

Emergency Broadcast Network - Telecommunication Breakdown

Emergency Broadcast Network were like a cool amalgamation of the above two bands- albeit with much less rapping, and a much heavier reliance on ironic media sound-bites and samples. In fact, it's this latter aspect that dates Telecommunication Breakdown the most. Although most samples themselves are somewhat timeless, the sheer number present per song make this production sound more like something that would've come out in the earlier nineties (instead of it's release date of 1995!) along with Tackhead, Ministry and to a lesser extent, Negativland. But it is a great sounding album, with lots of heavy, hard-edged beats and fat synth lines- thanks in no small part to the production prowess of the great Jack Dangers (Meat Beat Manifesto), whose signature is all over this album (in fact, Dangers is the common thread to all the above albums- and it shows in the sound). The motif of this disc being a multi-media device is driven home with samples of flipping dials, soundbites, announcements and the like. EBN were famous for their shows-as-multimedia events - so much so that they were tapped by U2 to provide visuals and transitional material for their ZooTV Tour. No doubt this fact helped them secure the superb packaging and bonus features in this production (a floppy disc - remember those?) and maybe even the swell guest appearances and producer credits, such as Brian Eno and Bill Laswell, who each produce a track.
But the album also drew heat for them in the indy world, which slagged them as sell-outs and the multi-media format album as a mainstream flash in the pan, which it isn't.
It sounds very timely today, in spite of some potentially dating aspects present in the mix.
In today's political environment, all of the above albums sound very appropriate, especially where they mention Bush (this was nearly 10 years before the Billy Carter of the Bush family ascended to the throne), Iraq, media manipulation, economic stagnation, racial ghetto-ization, etc...

Where are bands like this today? Most of these bands enjoyed the status of being rock-press media darlings, especially Franti, who now trades under his own name and with a sort of peace n' patchouli circuit friendly rock thing. Consolidated went public with their courtship and subsequent dumping with big record labels, culminating with 1999's Dropped, but have been very quiet on the scene, even when releasing the occasional album.
The boys of EBN are involved with aspects of multimedia and marketing.

Who are the equivalents of these bands today, and would we get to hear them?
It's also interesting to note how much ire that band like Public Enemy and similar groups drew and by comparison how much the debate seems to have died down now that most hip-hop has centered around an apolitical and nihilistic/narcissistic lyrical bent.Hip hop, be it of the whiteboy variety, or otherwise, seems to be largely apolitical by comparison and perhaps safely so. By mimicking the imperialistic nature of our culture and highlighting a self-destructive outlook, rap seems to have found a safe and profitable haven for itself.
In today's heavily commodified spectator society, it's much more likely that bands with politically charged lyrics quickly find themselves awash in a sea of irrelevence.

Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprosy - Hypocrisy is the Greatest
Consolidated - Friendly
Emergency Broadcast Network - Telecommunication


Blogger japanese forms said...

great posts - consolidated & disposable HOH i bought years ago but glad to see you sharing them.

11:43 PM  
Blogger MoogPower said...

Disposables I have on vinyl, but do not have the mentioned Consolidated album. I have Consolidated 'Play More Music'. Any interest in that one?

Actually, that's quite a good one to post & I will. Aside from some rather intersting 30sec spoken word amongst the album, it's got the all time classic 'You Suck' performed by the Yeastie Girls. Do you know it?
Rather amusing stuff.


2:35 AM  
Blogger sauceruney said...

The only thing I had by them (before now) was their collaboration with W.S. Burroughs on Spare Ass Annie

thanks for the post!

4:32 PM  
Blogger Phillip said...

Great stuff! I have the EBN album (amazing live act, btw) and my roommate has (had?) the consolidated album, and a guy I knew in high school had the Disposable Heroes, but I'm glad to get them all together on one hard drive! :)

4:45 AM  
Anonymous JerryS said...

I caught Consolidated live at Rockandy in Seattle in 95/96, can't remember. Decent show, but they had these terrible slaughterhouse vids cut with hardcore porn playing in the background. Kind of a buzzkill to watch throats getting slit rapid cut with Peter North shooting a wad if you know what I mean. Plus they did this candyass open forum at the end of the show to let everyone voice their opinions but it turned into a 30 minute verbal handjob for the band.

That aside, Friendly Facism is pretty good album for what it is. Didn't some members of Consolidated come from that 80's band Until December that did a pretty decent cover of Bella Lugosi's Dead?

9:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello from Poland, Can you upload once again the albums of Disposable Heroes and Emergency Broadcast Network, cos they are no longer available on rapidshare server. BTW great blog...

1:46 AM  
Blogger RoryJ said...

Yeah, what the Polish guy said. Somehow my EBN CD went missing, I would LOVE to listen to it again after all these years.

If you do upload it again, please shoot me a line at with a link. SWEET! Thank you.

7:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

should anyone post Consolidated's "Dropped" and "End of Meaning" please? A BIg Great THANKS!

6:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These bands with a message were great. But were are these types of bands today? Rage against the machine was continuing the line but sadly they are more or less defunct now too. The Flobots are an up and coming group. Anyone know of of some others to keep an eye on?

3:05 PM  
Blogger roots.stop said...

it would be nice if ''emergency broadcast network'' link is still alive...

11:25 PM  
Blogger Romulus said...

I had all of these, and they were all very formative for my politics. Did you by chance also own any Paris?

9:25 PM  

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