Asian Dub Foundation - 'Enemy Of The Enemy (Remastered)' // 'Tank (Remastered)' Album Reviews
Sometimes when a band reissues their back catalogue it can go one of a few ways. You can sit and wallow in the feel good nostalgia factor, the warm and fuzzy feeling of memories of times gone past. You can stroke your chin, trying to figure out why you didn't see through the emperors new clothes at the time. Or it can hit you with a punch that leaves your jaw sore and bruised.
Where do Asian Dub Foundation fit into these options?
While the UK was busy swallowing in the saccharine sweet taste of Britpop, Asian Dub Foundation were busy cooking up their own musical flavour. Drawing deeply from Dub soundsystems, Punk, Hip Hop, Bhangra, Jazz and Rock, the musical collective would crush the rose-tinted glasses of the UK music press. The band would tour extensively supporting bands like Primal Stream, Radiohead and Beastie Boys. Their second album "Raffi's Revenge" in 1998 was ferocious, angry without being aggressive, and earned them a Mercury Music Award nomination. By 2003 the band’s line up had changed and they released “Enemy Of The Enemy” which was followed two years later by “Tank”, both of which have been given a fresh remaster ready for these vinyl re-releases. As is standard at the moment, both have been pressed on heavyweight vinyl that sounds nice a clear. “Enemy of the Enemy” was their highest selling album, with lead track “Fortress Europe” setting out their manifesto. It’s a strong release with the band taking sounds and samples of their heritage, treating them reverentially while also making them sound new. ADF were at a point here where technology allowed them to turn their collective into a tsunami of sound. Race, culture and politics were all blended skilfully into a potent, heady brew. Breakbeats sit alongside guitars and bass comfortably, like Transglobal Underground jamming with Bad Brains. The sound is thick and heavy, switching from chilled to frantic in seconds. “La Haine” references the band’s habit of scoring the film of the same name, something they had been doing previously, while “1000 Mirrors” features Sinead O’ Connor narrate the tale of woman serving a life sentence for killing her abusive husband. It’s an album that doesn’t sound dated at all; in fact it’s scary to think that nearly twenty years on it’s still sounding relevant. It’s like they were able to see the signposts of where we were heading and tried to use their music as the best weapon they had, to provide knowledge and educate. The album’s title track sounds like a cyberattack orchestrated on our senses, reminding us that we can’t trust anyone. By comparison 2005’s “Tank” feels like a slight misstep compared to its predecessor. The tight, coiled riffs were replaced with a more Dub sound. It’s still a cultural melting point and it still has the right targets in sight but something feels slightly off. The sound is more electronica than before where previously they sounded more like a full band. Where “EOTE” seemed full of hooks and tunes, “Tank” feels more like a studio experiment. Opener “Flyover” is possibly the catchiest track on the album, its jungle beats barely feel like it’s holding the song together as it rattles along at breakneck speed. Where you want “Tank” (the song) to crush you but instead it coasts along. “Round Up” menaces from the shadows but it seems to lack the warmth of sound that was present on previous releases. Lyrically, there’s still a lot to unpack and learn from but sonically, you’re left a little cold. Both releases show exactly why Asian Dub Foundation felt like a radical challenge to the music industry. They wear their cultural flags proudly while continuing to stare down white, westernised cultural repression. It felt like back in the late 90’s and early 00’s the band were a force to be reckoned with. Hindsight of their music and what they were reacting too makes them possibly feel even more relevant now. “Enemy Of The Enemy” feels like it could have been released last week. In fact, I enjoyed the copy their PR guy sent me, I ordered “Raffi’s Revenge” just a couple of days later of my first listen. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the others too now. It just goes to show that great music still has the power to fire you up, no matter its age. Asian Dub Foundation are a collective that happily sidestep any accusations of nostalgia. They’re just as relevant now as they’ve ever been.
“Enemy Of The Enemy (Remastered)”
Website - http://asiandubfoundation.com/site
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/asiandubfoundation/
Review - Scott Hamilton