Atari Teenage Riot are nothing short of legendary. Having changed the face of both electronic and rock music in their intense career, and given the world a vast number of collaborators, apprentices and bastard permutations, they've left a legacy that will last for decades. I saw them perform last night at the Arches (current line-up of Alec Empire, Nic Endo and MC CX Kidtronix) and holy fuck did they rip it up! I used to love Ministry, Fear Factory and Red Harvest, who I thought were heavy, but to paraphrase Dalai Dahmer, discovering Atari Teenage Riot is like thinking Maiden are heavy, then seeing Slayer in full effect. This was a near-unrelenting blast of amen breaks, d'n'b tempos and shouty punk sloganeering that never lost itself in the white noise that often smothers black or speed metal. Classics like ATR, Revolution Action and Destroy 2000 Years of Culture rattle past in a blaze of call and response, with MC CX Kidtronix and Empire taking it in turns to whip the crowd up with a mixture of fierce anti-capitalist rhetoric and mindless fuck-punk nihilism.
Managing to be more brutal than death-industrial like the Berzerker whilst retaining a groove, ATR's mechanical battery never lapses into simple crush-kill-destroy techno - it's intense, mad-mental fun, and peppered with subtle melodies. Nic Endo, who handles most of the backing tracks from an MPC, is possessed of a delicate but powerful voice that cuts through the noise with amazing clarity - her solo performance when Empire retreats behind his drum machines was one of the many highlights.
Some people have seen fit to write Atari Teenage Riot's reformation off as a cash-cow, or a vanity project, and truthfully, this is not the same band that terrorised Glasgow back in 1993, but neither is it the same world, musically or politically. This is still a band at the height of their talents; invigorated, enthused and unafraid to experiment or take risks. The break-up of Rage Against The Machine put one of the many nails in the coffin of political music, and a backlash carried through the early 21st century which saw a socially-conscious agenda as a hindrance to performance. Atari Teenage Riot in 2010 is a reminder that performance is protest, that music can be inspiring, intelligent and remain as vitalistic as chewing on fresh adrenal glands.
With economic collapse, illegal wars and students actually motivated and angry enough to march on the government and physically break their security, it feels like we once again need bands like Atari Teenage Riot. We need million-selling artists whose new single is free on soundcloud. We need albums controversial enough to be censored and banned by the German government, and artists wild enough to play the tracks from it every time they perform. We need music that screams rebellion, white-hot anger, and the glorious freedom of creativity.
Atari Teenage Riot; FUCK YEAH.
Atari Teenage Riot - "Activate!" by Alec Empire