Into Battle with the Art of Noise / Review

Into Battle with the Art of NoiseFor a while back in the early ’80s Trevor Horn, Anne Dudley, Gary Langan and J.J. Jeczalik were just another group of musicians messing around with ideas in the studio. When journalist and copywriter Paul Morley (working with their record company ZTT at the time) presented an eight page manifesto defining the band and their guiding principles, The Art of Noise was born.

Morley became a critical part of the The Art of Noise, contributing ideas, song titles and taking control the band’s image and the presentation of the records.

Considering themselves an art-meets-pop project, a ‘hit’ record was not really on the agenda, but that is what happened in May 1984 when Close (to the Edit) hit the UK top ten.

For better or for worse, this adjusted their thinking with regards to the album that was in the planning, and the playful and meandering 18-track album (named ‘Worship’) became the more focussed and arguably more commercial, 9-track (Who’s Afraid Of?) The Art of Noise.

ZTT/Salvo have brought together the unreleased Worship album, and the debut EP Into Battle, to form the 27 track compilation called simply Into Battle with the Art of Noise. Worship follows Into Battle on this new release so the running order of both is preserved.

The 9 track Into Battle EP remains essence of Art of Noise. You get a very early incarnation of Beat Box (unofficially known as diversion zero), Moments in Love (the one even Mums and Dads know, from horrible compilations with titles like ‘The Power of Love’) and the excellent Donna.

This is Into Battle‘s first correct presentation on CD, since it was included on the And What Have You Done With My Body God 4CD box set back in 2008. That set was pricey and is now out of print.  Into Battle did come out on CD via German label Repertoire back in 2003, but the wrong version of Beat Box was used rendering the whole exercise redundant.

It should be noted that the original cassette version of Into Battle featured a 5 minute edit of Moments in Love rather than a 10 minute version found on the vinyl. It is the cassette version which is included on this release.

So what of these Worship session tracks? The first thing to point out is that within the booklet is a photo of the original master tapes, with the song titles and running order on the boxes. This is important because it proves (if there was any doubt) that this album really was being prepared for release,  and was considered a coherent and self-contained piece of work.

If you already own their debut album, much of what is here will be very familiar albeit in slighty different form. Also, between Worship and (Who’s Afraid Of?) The Art of Noise the band made the artistic decision to rename some tracks. This is not an issue when Worship remained unreleased, but now that it has been dusted down and brought out of the archives, it’s very confusing. Here’s an example: on Worship the track called Who’s Afraid Of The Art Of Noise appears as How to Kill on the Who’s Afraid… album, and just when you thought you were on top of things the track on the debut called A Time For Fear (Who’s Afraid) is almost identical to The Movement Of Desire on the Worship album. Sign of Relief is Snapshot from the debut with 20 seconds of extra sampling at the beginning. And Momento on the debut is an edit of And What Have you Done With My Body God from Worship. Confused? You will be.

It would be easy to be cynical and claim that ZTT/Salvo are are guilty of repackaging the same music under a different moniker. In some ways this is true, but the redeeming aspect is that Worship is actually a remarkably successful collection of tracks that this reviewer enjoyed much more than the selection that became their actual debut album.

So although Into Battle is the headline act with it’s face on the front cover, the Worship album plays a longer set and steels the show.

There is one big caveat – the sticker on the packaging claims that this CD contains 18 previously unrealeased tracks. This is a bit of a joke to be honest, and really does need to be taken with a massive pinch of salt. As previously mentioned not only are some tracks virtually identical to renamed versions on the debut album but those that are ‘new’ in many cases can be found on the aforementioned 4CD Boxset. Diversions 5, Diversions 3, and Comes and Goes to name just three. This is even acknowledged in the CD booklet. Salvo/ZTT are being more than a little cheeky to claim this ‘unreleased’ status. If you do own the box set you will also already have the Into Battle EP too, appearing as it does on Disc 4.

However, the packaging of this release is impressive with due respect paid to XLZTT’s original designs and period photography. Unlike most of the recent ZTT/Salvo releases this is only one disc, so it is packaged slightly differently in a three-panel card sleeve. It’s attractively presented, although there is an unforgivable typo on the cover. Flesh in Armour reads as Flesh in Armous. Compiler and ‘curator’ Ian Peel does a good job in the booklet notes of explaining the timelines and the reasons behind the shelving of the Worship, however the notes are marred slightly by a few factual errors (the cassette edition of Into Battle was CTIS100 and not ZTIS109, for example).

If you do not own the Into Battle EP, or have an old vinyl copy that has seen better days, then you will not be disappointed with Into Battle with the Art of Noise. You get the wonderful EP plus much more. If you are interested primarily for the Worship album then as long as you do not expect something radically different from what you are already familiar with on (Who’s Afraid Of?) The Art of Noise you will not be disappointed. It isn’t really that different. But it is better. And more fun. It’s also nicely remastered and competitively priced.

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