[Review] The Art of Noise: In Visible Silence (1986)

Not so much art for art’s sake this time, but it’s still audibly the work of The Art of Noise.

Kronomyth 2.0: The Pink Paranther.

The Art of Noise cut their ties with ZTT Records and released a new album of music that sounded a lot like their last record, (Who’s Afraid of) The Art of Noise. The group clearly wasn’t afraid of repeating themselves. Without Trevor Horn and Paul Morley, the music is less overtly political, although “Instruments of Darkness” uses the same mixed-media approach to make a big statement about racism. Unfortunately, the album’s biggest musical statement turned out to be a remake of Henry Mancini’s “Peter Gunn” featuring Duane Eddy on guitar, which only reminded me of how much I hated ELP’s version—and then, how much I loved playing Spy Hunter, so I suppose they even out.

The trouble with this record, in my worthless opinion, is that the band no longer seemed revolutionary. The pre-programmed vocals, beats, and digital effects feel like a clever gimmick. From Yello to Yellow Magic Orchestra, other bands had done this better, earlier. And then there’s the sense that AoN were just repeating themselves (e.g., compare “Camilla” to “Moments of Love”). When the band wraps a nice melody into the mix, as they do on “Legs” and “Backbeat,” the results are quite pleasant. But, too often, the songs feel like a few clever tricks stretched out across four minutes.

After In Visible Silence was released, the group recorded a version of “Paranoimia” with the video-generated persona, Max Headroom, which turned out to be a surprisingly cool partnership. That version was included in the 1988 reissue and stands as one of their more creative endeavors. Unfortunately, you won’t find it on the original elpee, which features the instrumental version. In 2018, a double-elpee edition with a bevy of bonus tracks was released, proving that the band had plenty of ideas, just not enough really stellar and unique ones. He sniffed. Because I know how much of a weenie I sound like.

Original elpee version

A1. Opus 4 (1:59)
A2. Paranoimia (4:46)*
A3. Eye of a Needle (4:25)
A4. Legs (4:06)
A5. Slip of the Tongue (1:30)
A6. Backbeat (4:12)
B1. Instruments of Darkness (7:12)
B2. Peter Gunn – featuring Duane Eddy (Henry Mancini) (3:55)
B3. Camilla – The Old, Old Story (7:23)
B4. The Chameleon’s Dish (4:17)
B5. Beatback (1:19)

UK CD bonus track
12. Peter Gunn (extended version) (Henry Mancini)

All songs written by Anne Dudley/J.J. Jeczalik/Gary Langan unless noted. Arranged by The Art of Noise.

*Replaced by “Paranoimia with Max Headroom” (6:40) on the 1988 re-issue.

Expanded Vinyl Edition
C1. Hoops and Mallets
C2. Something Always Happens
C3. Why Me?
C4. A Nation Rejects
C5. Backbeat (Reprise)
C6. World War II
C7. The First Leg
C8. Happy Harry’s High Club
C9. Chameleon 4
C10. Beddoo-Bedoo
D1. Panic
D2. Second Legs
D3. Trumpton Boogie
D4. Chameleon 1
D5. A Nation Regrets
D6. Peter Gunn (extended version, featuring Duane Eddy)
D7. Peter Gunn (extended version, featuring Max Headroom)

The Players

Anne Dudley, J.J. Jeczalik, Gary Langan with Duane Eddy (guitar on B2). Produced by The Art of Noise.

The Pictures

The art by John Pasche. “Hats” and “Spray” photos by Peter Ashworth.

The Plastic

Released in 1986 on elpee, cassette and expanded* compact disc in April 1986 in the UK (China/Chrysalis, WOL/ZWOL 2/CCD 1528), the US (China/Chrysalis, BFV/FVT/VK 41528) and Australia (China/Chrysalis, L/C 38527) with innersleeve. (*UK version features bonus track.) Reached #18 on the UK charts, #53 on the US charts and #49 on the US Top R&B/Hip-Hop charts.

  1. Re-issued on cassette in 1988 in the US (China/Polydor, 835 806-4) with Max Headroom version of “Paranoimia” replacing the original.
  2. Re-released as Extended Vinyl Edition on 2LP in 2018 in Europe (Music on Vinyl, MOVLP2002) with 17 bonus tracks.

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