reviewed by Michael Thomas
It’s been less than year since SIRR’s freshly baked Liar Cake made its way into the world. In September, all Mark O’Connor, Mark Hill and Paul Healey did was release a horrifying, catchy and deep album-length treatise on the rise of robots and artificial intelligence.
Given the new season of Black Mirror that premiered earlier this month, BEGAT is timely, and it tells a full-length story that is much more terrifying than anything Charlie Brooker et al. could come up with.
There’s a full story arc to this treatise. At first, the driving guitar of “Get Up and Go” could mislead the listener into thinking it’s an extension of Liar Cake. But the line “the message is garbled, something ’bout, something ’bout our blue marble” foreshadows that something is on the horizon.
O’Connor examines many things technology can do to people—it can theoretically make people live forever, for example. When technological progress gets us to the point where we can give up our physical bodies to leave our minds intact forever, you can bet there will be people willing to do that. “Live Forever,” with its funky bassline, examines this idea, and at first glance it sound wonderful. But as the album goes on, it becomes clear that progress is going to leave humanity behind.
In “Mindjobs,” fuzzy electronics tell the tale of how technology can change sexual experiences. Whether that’s horrifying or titillating is up to the listener. But after that, things start to get weird. On “Creepy Caterpillar,” O’Connor repeats so many phrases that begin with “blood on” that the industrial sounds backing him make the song suffocating.
From there, things get progressively more horrific.The doubleheader “I’m Going Crazy/They Don’t Bleed” is mania and calm. The former half is buzzing with electronics as the human realizes the beeping and whirring of electronics will never stop now. The latter half is like a calm realization that humans are expendable; after all, robots don’t bleed.
At this point in the album, it’s safe to say robots are ruling. A deep voice and deep bass in “Good Luck” tells humanity it’s not going to ever be dominant again. “AI Pulse” is a short, bewildering cavalcade of electronics, perhaps a musical EMP. This leads up to “Armageddon,” in which there’s a full AI uprising. O’Connor narrates the song mostly in a spoken-word style, but when the chorus comes around, the singing sounds almost peaceful, despite “smoking tankers, flaming seas, all of hell was breaking free.” Things get progressively bleaker, with images of darkened skies in “Fate Can’t Be Outrun” and a maniacal rant in “Shoot the Buffalo.”
After all this, the end in sight won’t be what you expect. It’s less than a minute long, and amid simple percussion, O’Connor wonders, “What if we made God?” By this point, is this song from the point of view of a human or a machine? What is either being thinking? We’ll never know.
Musically, the compositions have gotten tighter, and the band has more or less mastered the art of hooks. Nearly every one of the 15 songs is memorable after the first lesson, whether it’s because of some tasty bass lines or repetition of choruses. BEGAT is fulfilling, disturbing, and unlikely to leave your mind after you hear it.
Top Tracks: “Live Forever”; “I’m Going Crazy/They Don’t Bleed”; “Ones and Zeroes”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) +*swoop*