Yes, I was hooked, and decided there and then that this was my new all-time favourite band. The only problem was I knew absolutely nothing about them. And in the pre-internet days in which us vintage folk once lived finding out information about your brand new favourite band in the whole wide world could prove pretty difficult indeed. I also had just the slightest suspicion that Renegade Soundwave were not the type of band that I could read about in the pages of Smash Hits or Melody Maker. Nor did they appear to belong to any type of scene. The beats were fast and furious like industrial metal, yet the singer seemed to be rapping in a cockney drawl. They sounded a little like The Specials if they had been formed during the acid house revolution and the ecstasy didn’t actually work.
After much thought I decided that the best way to find out more was to visit Belfast’s coolest record shop, the now sadly departed Dr Roberts. They had an album by the band entitled Soundclash that featured a dangerous and slightly salacious looking cover. Also on vinyl they had some 12inch records by the band, including Probably a Robbery, and Kray Twins. Nirvana was here (not the band Nirvana or course as it was too early for them yet. No, it was the actual feeling of Nirvana which I am talking about here)!
»Excuse me Mister« I asked in my finest broad Belfast accent, »are these any good?« »To be honest with you son«, came the reply, »that band are a bit shit!« I thought about these words, and bought all of the records anyway. This guy, I reassured myself, is old, and probably just doesn’t understand. Besides, he has a beard, and a beer gut, so obviously has no taste at all.
Getting home I stuck the album on immediately. From that very first moment I knew this was something special. That this was my sound. The year was 1989. And so began my enduring love for Renegade Soundwave.
One year later they released the album In Dub which was met with huge critical acclaim and has since been cited by many top producers including The Chemical Brothers as a major influence on their work. Yet in my teenage years, and even now, Soundclash is the one that grips me, toys with me, and makes it feel ecstatic to be alive.
From the first strains of opening track Blue Eyed Boy, to final track Can’t Get Used to Losing You, the whole album simply oozes menace and swagger. A distinctly British mix of hip hop, electro, house, and the industrial noise of the likes of Front 242 the album harasses and bullies you until you have no option but to submit to its will.
Sure, some of the lyrics don’t stand up to close scrutiny. But some of The Beatles’ lyrics are a bit crap too! Admittedly the haunted house horror of Space Gladiator contains some particularly awful couplets with »Power thrusts to the mutant guts, Zombies that need a mouthwash«, being particularly painful. Yet it’s this naivety mixed with pure naked aggression, and just that little element of funk, that makes the whole thing so compelling and allows you to overlook any obvious faults.
Highlights include lead single Probably a Robbery, the luscious Murder Music, and the sleazy decadence of Pocket Porn. Yet, there is a wealth of heart and soul in this album also. The line ’And I woke up clutching at my pocket porn’, from Pocket Porn still suggests to me an overwhelming sense of complete and utter loneliness together with the inability to make human connections in a desensitized world. The closing track Can’t Get Used to Losing You, a cover of an old Andy Williams track, features a chorus of »Can’t get used to losing you, no matter what I try to do. Gonna live my whole life through, Loving you« that makes my eyes mist up with every listen.
Because we’ve all done that. We’ve all messed up at some time. There is someone in everyone’s heart that they will always cherish and miss. And we all wish that we were the type of person who could get up the courage to pull off an exciting and daring robbery. Yet we also know that if we did then it would all go very wrong as occurs in the epic Probably a Robbery.
This is one of the many reasons that the album works so well for me. It speaks to you without the use of overly complicated wordplay, or allusions to things which you need to have experienced the luxury of a private school education to understand. They are working class! And they don‘t see this as a hindrance at all. They may not always be subtle. Yet they always mean what they say. And sometimes, that is simply enough!