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When independent label Beggars Banquet was looking to capitalize on the huge success of Gary Numan at the cusp of the Eighties, their attention switched to a strange duo from San Francisco with an obsession with the darker aspects of science fiction.
No doubt Beggars were hoping for an American version of Tubeway Army, a band who could take troubling subjects, give them an offbeat but commercial twist, and turn them into a major cash-generating machine.
What they got was something rather different.
Formed in 1976 by vocalist/drummer Damon Edge and Gary Spain, Chrome’s debut album, ‘The Visitation’, a relatively straightforward take on Latino-tinged electronic rock (‘Eno meets Santana”) gave little warning of the aural carnage to come and it wasn’t until the arrival of maverick guitarist Helios Creed, and Spain’s departure in 1977 that things started to change for the weird.
The notoriously eccentric Creed nearly blew his chances with the band, allegedly irking Edge by turning up to their first meeting dressed as a pirate, but his influence on Chrome was buy android app reviews immediate. His abrasive guitar sound coupled with Edge’s demented tape manipulation and powerful drumming gave their next two albums – ‘Alien Soundtracks’ and ‘Half Machine Lip Moves’ – a deliriously wild, chaotic quality, pitched somewhere between Suicide and The Stooges.
Chrome purists invariably gravitate towards those records’ primitive dark psychedelics – Julian Cope memorably referred to ‘Lip Moves’ as ”Turkish robots playing Hawkwind“, but the general view appears to be that their difficult fourth album was where the duo compromised their sound, initiating an inevitable decline.
Yet, even a cursory listen would suggest that was nonsense, as ‘Red Exposure’ is, if anything, equally as whacked out and individual as its predecessors.
Taking a much more electronic approach, it isn’t so much produced (by the band themselves with the wonderfully named John L Cyborg who received a credit despite actually being the drum machine) as submerged. Its dense and cluttered sound, described by one critic as “so murky and bizarre that basically EVERYTHING sounds like it’s in the background”, provided the soundtrack to a gloomy Philip K Dickian future, where horror roamed at the corner of the eye and unspeakable things scuttled in the gutter.
As well as playing with a bewildering array of tape machines, oscillators and delays, the duo share vocal duties throughout – Creed opting for more traditional rock yelp, while Edge remains buried under waves of effects, veering from ominous whisper to malfunctioning robot.
The diseased synth introduction to opener ‘New Age’, an unlikely choice as a single, sets the tone by not so much fading in as seeping out of the speakers like poison gas, while Edge wails menacingly through waves of static over squelchy percussion and a clanking riff.
Even more upfront tunes like ‘Static Gravity’ teeter on the cusp of madness, with a crunching cyclical riff underpinned by a woozy orchestral sample, while ‘Eyes In the Center’ delivers a particularly nasty synth line over cavernous mine-shaft drums, portentous bells and shards of feedback, that explode like firecrackers.
Elsewhere, the menacing ‘Jonestown’ with it’s distorted vocals and piercing bowed guitar line is a close cousin to the harsh industrial tones of Cabaret Voltaire’s ‘Mix Up’, ‘Eyes on Mars’ is a delirious phasers-on-stun frug powered by some fierce tribal drumming, while the stentorian march of ‘Animal’ is enlivened by Creed’s deranged soloing.