The mysterious ‘Alvin Lucia’s accompanying sleevenotes to this latest album ‘Compliance (TM)’, which arrives two years on the heels of SNOG’s preceding ‘Babes In Consumerland’ collection perhaps describe the situation best. “Gorging on the ragtag goulash of human frailties, SNOG vomit out the world in song.” More than twenty years into the band’s existence, it continues to be an apt description for what the Thrussell-helmed collective does, taking heavy subjects like corporate control, enforced conformity and mass media and then injecting them with a barbed sense of humour and catchy pop grooves. Packaged like a pharmaceutical product, the twelve tracks collected here present themselves as an educational program explaining the benefits of ‘Compliance (TM)’, but once you get past the sleeve there’s nothing here that’s likely to throw longtime fans – indeed Thrussell’s customary blend of edged lyrical observations and eclectic stylistic explorations has become something like a comforting friend at this point.
In many senses SNOG’s more recent albums have seen Thrussell’s tracks take on an increased accessibility. Indeed, this latest album somehow feels simultaneously more palpably ‘human’ than some of the band’s preceding work, and there’s often more of a focus on building deep atmospheres than there is on hard-edged dancefloor tracks here. Having said that though, first single ‘Cheerful Hypocrisy’ opens proceedings with the sort of crunchy electro-dancefloor grooves that are likely to please the band’s hefty EBM / industrial dance fanbase, but what’s immediately noticeable is the comparative lack of distorted processing to Thrussell’s vocals, a trend that continues to be apparent right throughout this album. ‘The Clockwork Man’ meanwhile sees punching tribal industrial drums and sheets of cold synths lending an electro-punk edge to Thrussell’s eerily pitchbent vocals as they slide against Kraftwerkian bleeps and dark bass pads.
‘The Toxic Womb Of Convenience’ takes Thrussell’s repeated chorus “we’re puppets dancing in a show / we don’t even know what we think we know” and sends it gliding over a curiously hypnotic backdrop of airy synth trails and off-step drum machine rhythms, the swelling analogue electronics adding a proggy undertone. Elsewhere, ‘Heroically Deluded’ offers up perhaps the closest thing to a ballad here as sparse overdriven analogue synths and downbeat rhythms add a vaguely Depeche Mode-esque edge to Thrussell’s weary sounding vocal, before ‘The Slow Apocalypse’ sends things wandering out into eerie electro-cabaret as horror movie organs slide against vaguely Middle Eastern sounding flourishes. While a lot of it might not hit you over the head the first time through, ‘Compliance (TM)’ is another excellent album from David Thrussell in his SNOG incarnation that certainly repays upon repeat listening.