Thinking Plague: Decline And Fall

Mike Johnson’s dizzying new album: don’t call it RIO!

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Thinking Plague founder Mike Johnson is well known for rejecting the notion that his band are part of the Rock In Opposition movement. However, it’s hard to ignore the links between Decline And Fall’s insistently peculiar twists and turns and the groundbreaking avant-rock adventures of Henry Cow, Art Zoyd and Univers Zéro. Johnson does have a valid point on one level: despite conforming regularly to RIO type, these songs exhibit a distinctive timbre and tone of their own.

Vocalist Elaine Di Falco’s deadpan delivery adds a subtle haze of strongly European-sounding art-pop quirkiness to the stuttering rhythms and cracked classical sweep of opener Malthusian Dances.

Seemingly a concept piece concerned with impending apocalypse, this is an album underpinned by an exhilarating sense of panic, as dizzying complexity and disorientating tempo twists jar and jab the synapses. On the taut and aggressive _Sleeper Cell Anthem _Thinking Plague crank up the disquiet, welding an unhinged backdrop of atonal twinkling to a constantly evolving framework of traumatised grooves.

This is not for the faint-hearted, but endlessly compelling nonetheless.