Nostalgic but exciting
Force the Hand of Chance is an album by Psychic TV originally released in the 1980s that has been reissued and is available for the first time on vinyl in about 25 years. It boasts a “remastering,” yet there is new packaging, artwork, and it is accompanied by the release of new LP Alienist, which became available on August 18th. The LP consists of only four songs, but they are worth checking out. The band is also playing live again and their dates are available on Psychic TV’s website.
Many people consider Force the Hand of Chance to have something for everyone: transcendent strings, fantastic guest vocals, incredible production and genre-spanning arrangements – so perhaps it does. It was certainly a notable album during it’s time. Its greatness is owed to the many talented minds who worked on it, namely front person Genesis P-Orridge, Andrew Poppy (strings), Alex Fergusson, Marc Almond (guest vocals) and engineer Ken Thomas (Lemon Kittens, Sigur Rós, etc). It consists of eight songs, each very different, but each one plays a necessary part of the complete whole. Accompanying the original release was an all-instrumental LP (Psychic TV Themes) which incorporated some very innovative techniques and instruments for the ’80s.
The strange, new, and different pervade this album, which should come as no surprise to its fans. Psychic TV has always been a little unclassifiable, which is the only way Genesis P-Orridge, their band mates and their followers would have them. Of P-Orridge, a former English teacher wrote, “[S/he] seems to live in a completely different universe to the rest of us. Very weird but very intelligent.” This statement also accurately describes Psychic TV. The band is masterful with the way they wield their musical strengths, but they do so in unexpected ways. All of this is very apparent when listening to Force the Hand of Chance.
There have been additions to the album and other re-releases, all with their own pros and cons (there has been an advertisement for another album, weird bonus tracks, faulty audio tracking and cheap packaging, among other problems), but this year’s reissue seems to be an exception. It is a solid reproduction of the original release- which, quite honestly, is a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, it does not seem to come with the instrumental LP, but that can be overlooked because of its release on vinyl. For those hardcore fans, this is the first time in about 25 years that you can get your hands on Psychic TV’s most popular album in this format and it’s worth it, too – it’s just how Psychic TV should be listened to.
The music of this album has been reviewed many, many times, but it is worth mentioning yet again. Force the Hand of Chance is an absolute must-listen. Not only is the music, mixing and lyricism great (for the ’80s, it’s spectacular), but this record marks a turning point in alternative music’s history: the formal acceptance of industrial music. From the first track, “Just Drifting,” a wonky, string-centric, almost folksy tune, to woodwind-laden, spoken-word “Message from the Temple,” melodies, samples and beats are used in beguiling, enchanting ways. P-Orridge’s voice is both unsettling and deeply charming. It makes you want to keep listening, but it also gets you thinking- what exactly is s/he trying to convey? The vocals, in addition to being flat-out weird, are warm and occasionally, even funny. S/he has a beautiful voice and though it’s an unconventional beauty, that doesn’t make it any less marvelous.
It’s difficult to tell whether or not we should take this album seriously. On one hand, it is the predecessor of an entire genre, and on the other, this is the product of the most creative and slightly silly artists imaginable. What is clear is that Force the Hand of Chance is a record that has stood the test of time, literally. It is a classic for good reason. The poppy “Stolen Kisses,” with guest artist Marc Almond, and the overwhelmingly moody “Guiltless” both give us the range of emotion Force the Hand of Chance can evoke. Musically (or at least regarding the technical aspects of it), this album is gorgeous. Everything is in sync- the harmonies, samples, melodies, themes, production- everything. Cerebrally, it is something else. And it’s amazing.
For forever-fans and newcomers alike, Force the Hand of Chance is a quality album. Its music you can lose yourself in and this reissue lets us listen to it exactly the way it should be.