Godflesh, Streetcleaner (Roadrunner, 1991)
I cannot imagine what sheer and utter joy a select few had upon buying this album, slipping it into the CD player, and hearing it for the first time. I discovered Godflesh later (with the “Slavestate” single), and by the time I got around to buying a copy of Streetcleaner, I already knew Slavestate and Pure backwards and forwards. So I was ready for the opening bars of “Like Rats,” and I knew what I was about to hear, more or less.
But oh, my, what it must have been to hear something so thoroughly brutal and unrestrained, with lyrics that wouldn’t overly confuse a bright six-year-old and a repetitive drum line that sounds like it was created on a cruelly cheap Roland (mainly because it was), and yet at the same time have all that coalesce into the work of profound beauty that is Streetcleaner.
There is something about certain pop bands that defies all logic. Somehow, they take all that is worst about pop music, put it all together, and come up with pure delight. You know the feeling– when a band you’ve always thought to be as talented as a terrarium full of sea slugs (say, Sneaker Pimps) comes up with something that you not only don’t clutch your ears in pain when you hear it, but you actually want to listen to it again (say, “6 Underground,” the Nellee Hooper mix). Godflesh are like that, but they managed to do it for two albums and a handful of singles. Every song. On every record. Think about it for a second. Either there was some sort of weird electromagnetic field surrounding them, or they were the luckiest band in existence. Of course, having friends like John Zorn, Bill Laswell, and Mick Harris (collectively, PainKiller, for whom the Godflesh boys recorded some tracks) probably helped as well.
One way or the other, though, Streetcleaner will melt your head. You’ve never heard anything like “Christbait Rising” before, and it’s not terribly likely you ever will again. An essential album of the nineties. *****