Artist: Greater Than One

CD: "The Complete Works":
"All the Masters Licked Me"

Label: Brainwashed Archives

Review by:
DJ Kantrip





When thinking about the industrial music scene of the early to mid-90's
some common names come up. Consolidated, Skinny Puppy, Chris Connelly,
Pigface, and the list can go on. This was a period where industrial
music was just as it was named. Machine built and not pretty in the
least. Harsh beats, lyrics full of political unrest, and random samples
from various movies, and news reels all creating a bizarre mosaic that
was dancy and thought provoking. I was introduced to this musical
revolution when a friend in college forced a box of Pigface, and Current
93 CDs into my hands and said "listen and learn." The obsession started
there and hasn't stopped for me. Sadly in all the time I've picked at
people's musical knowledge, never once did the name Greater Than One (or
later GTO) come up.

GTO was a collaboration b/w London-based, husband and wife team Michael
Wells and Lee Newman. Starting in 1985, GTO spread their messages via
performance, recordings, and art installations. Later their recorded
albums were picked up in the US by Wax Trax! and other independent
labels, and as with the fate of most underground music labels, vanished
from circulation when the label vanished. Thankfully, Brainwashed
Archives re-released GTO's entire catalog of works. The collection
consists of 3 packs, each pack focusing on one of the LPs, and bundling
in additional EPs, enhanced CDs and DVDs within them. Having given all
8 of the CDs a good listen, I'm rather annoyed with the fact that it
took me so long to hear about GTO. Dating back as far as 1987, elements
of their music can be heard in almost every aspect of industrial music
today. I would even venture to say that they explored some musical
ground well before many of the noted industrial pioneers, based on the
dates of their recordings and the sounds they produced. Greater Than
One was well ahead of their time.

The first album, All the Masters Licked Me, is largely ambient and
experimental. War drums and droning chants bleed gracefully into
Japanese flutes and soft gongs, and then back into some dead-like moans
with clock noises providing a steady beat. There's not a lot in the way
of vocals or lyrics, and the song titles convey most of the messages
that the band was putting out to the audience. Names like, The
Intelligence of Natives, The Sweet Smell of a Supermarket on Fire, and
We Are the People with the Human Fist. If you're a fan of acts like
Test Department, Psychic TV, or Hopeful Machines, I highly recommend
this particular album out of the bunch. Bundled with this CD is the
Trust EP which is only 2 long tracks, running about 30 minutes in
length, and an enhanced CD with MP3s, photos, and an art book.

The next LP in the collection is London, which was originally released
in 1989. This album incorporated more of a pop/dance sensibility in it,
and has been said to be the point where sample bands became their own
genre. Tracks like Now is the Time and Peace are chocked full of funky
bass lines, and a house music style, often looping pieces of historic
speeches or instructional recordings over and over to spell out the
song's ultimate meaning. In comparison to All The Masters Licked Me,
London is a bit more hopeful and optimistic in its demeanor. While the
messages conveyed are no less severe, GTO takes a more pop-oriented
approach to delivery. Elements of the darker side of GTO emerge in the
latter portion of the album on songs like Brick Lane, The Rose The Cross
and The Flag, and Crisis. The second CD of this pack is largely the
same as the first. Lots of dancy beats, heavy sampling, and overt
political themes. There is also a DVD with music videos, and art reel
included in this binder.

Last but not least we have the final contribution of GTO to the evolving
industrial scene, G-Force. G-Force is vastly different to the other 2
albums. First off, it relies less on a collage of random audio samples
and focuses more on vocals, synthesizer loops, and very progressive
beats. Out of the main LPs that the collection gathered, G-Force is the
most club-friendly but impressed me the least. It was hard to
distinguish one track from the next when I just had it on in the
background. It sounded very generic and not like the pioneering sound
terrorists that I had just spent 6 hours listening to. The Utopia EP,
which is also bundled in this collection, was much more to my liking.
Opening up with the collage-sampled I Don't Need God, it still has that
polished engineered sound to it, but maintains the heavy political
tastes that the previous albums maintained. I think my favorite track
on this EP is Fear is the Agent of Violence which consists of 2
gentlemen discussing Trotsky's theories on communism and art, while war
drums and very foreboding horns blast in between the arguments. It is
very much a switch back to the ideas that GTO explored on All the
Masters Licked Us. The last CD of the G-Force pack is unreleased
material that the band had yet to coalesce into an album. These tracks
demonstrate where Michael Wells would later go with bands like Signs of
(ov) Chaos, and S.O.L.O.

So after about a week of listening to Greater Than One, I am reminded of
what made Industrial music so appealing to me in the first place. Heavy
hitting political commentary, stitched together like some punk scrap
book, with a bit of a dance beat to it. The release dates of some of
the material, as far back as 1985, makes me think that much of what we
enjoy today was cut and tested by this duet out of London. I don't
really recommend it for club play, except for the tracks "Now is the
Time" or "Utopia AA", but I highly recommend this entire collection to
fans of anything early to mid 90's Industrial. Greater Than One fills
that odd missing link b/w bands like Coil and Sheep On Drugs. Even if
you think committing to 8 CDs of one band could be bit too much I
recommend at least sampling the London album. You will not be



Greater Than One:

Brainwashed Archives:

Review by:
DJ Kantrip