by Simon Reynolds
'Humanity' and 'honesty' are two of the most overrated things in rock. So hats off to Sub Pop for bringing us Six Finger Satellite, a band whose coldblooded conceptualism and contrivance makes them exiles in their own land. Heartless and arty where their compatriots are heartfelt and artless, SFS are the best Sub Pop band since you-know-who.
With their Kraftwerk-style uniforms (whitecoated lab technicians circa last year's fab mini-LP "Machine Cuisine") and strict-time robo-rhythms, SFS are rock reptiles in the tradition of Devo or Tubeway Army. This time round there's less of "Cuisine"'s dirty electronica, and instead a slight return to the guitar-centric sound of the debut LP. SFS exhiliratingly join the dots between various forgotten moments in post-punk. And so "Bad Comrade" begins as a grim processional through the bleak urban wastes of 'Red Mecca' era Cabaret Voltaire, then explodes into the caustic agit-funk paroxysms of Gang of Four; "Parlour Games" and "Simian Fever" recall the art-metal clangour of Chrome and Bowie's "Lodger"; "White Queen to Black Knight" virtually rewrites "Annalisa" from PiL's underrated debut. As for "Cock Fight": forget Nine Inch Nails et al, this is the real industrial rock, a swarf-spitting, steelworks scree.
Thematically, we're talking grotesquerie-a-gogo, the kind of perverse, puerile preoccupations that characterised Throbbing Gristle, Big Black and Devo. "Rabies (Baby's Got The)" gives the game away in the title, while "Where Humans Go" appears to be a 'Soylent Green'-style sci-fi fantasy of people being rendered down into meat for cannibal consumption, with machinic beats and effluent-like synth-slime conjuring the abattoir's grisly ambience. The ultimate destination of this particular rock strain of impulse-to-outrage and morbid fascination with abjection is always the Final Solution, and so the last track "Board The Bus" revives the scenario of "Machine Cuisine"'s "The Magic Bus" (with its cyborg gauleiter grunts of "work equals freedom" and "fire at will, commandant").
Dodgy flirtations with the Teutonic/technocratic aside, Six Finger's rigour and frigidity are strangely refreshing at a time when so much US rock is basically 70s singer-songwriter angst with a fuzz-box. Expose yourself to their severity.
Melody Maker, 1995
by Simon Reynolds
It was actually a mistake that first got me intrigued by Six Finger
"This is a time of slacker rock," says singer John MacLean with a pained
Six Finger have no truck with the spiritual weaklings of lo-fi, which is basically punk degenerated into an ersatz folk music (Sebadoh = James Taylor with a fuzzbox). Six Finger descend from an altogether less meek-and-mild strand of punk, that runs from the Stooges' raw power through the Pistols' virulent nihilism to Big Black's ear-scalding severity.
Where this vision of punk (brutalism, will-to-power, appetite for destruction) inevitably seems to end up is Germany. And so The Stooges' Ron Asheton performed in SS regalia, while as a solo artist Iggy had "visions of swastikas" reeling in his head; Johnny Rotten sang about the Berlin Wall and Belsen; Big Black covered Kraftwerk's misogynist ditty "The Model". Punk-prophet and Kraftwerk-fan Lester Bangs pointed out that Germany had invented speed (amphetamine and the autobahn) and argued that rock's future lay with the German bands' man-machine interface and motorik rhythms. It's on this aesthetic freeway connecting Detroit and Berlin, where guitar-blitzkrieg meets synth-precision, that you'll find Six Finger Satellite.
On the cover of their first Sub Pop single, 'The Declaration of
"We had all this was stuff about showing up at the studio on time, being physically fit, because you have to earn the machines' respect," says John. "We keep to a strict regimen of getting up at 9 0'clock, meeting at the coffee shop, doing some callisthenic exercises before repairing to the studio, then winding up at the disco at night."
In between the guitar-centric debut "The Pigeon Is The Most Popular Bird"
"Modern computer music like techno is the perfect example of the machines
Like Elastica, Six Finger play rock purged of hippy indulgence ("when I
Six Finger are veritable scholars of post-punk. Earlier, during the
"We're interesting in anything that involves two opposing forces,"
So which do you sympathise with?
"That depends. Whoever has the guts to carry something through. People who
In their groovy press pack, each member of Six Finger lists their favorite
"I guess I've just read a lot of war books and had my share of Third Reich
"It's only because they were such a remarkable organisation," continues
"At one of our shows, we used to have a Six Finger black arm-band, and a
James: "The confusion our generation feels is from not being able to live up
John: "There's a whole fascist side to it where it's not background music,
We appear to have reached another of those stagnant lulls in rock
"Severe Exposure" is out now on Sub Pop.