Overlooked: Meat Beat Manifesto
Overlooked are playlists and write-ups that focus on artists that didn’t get the attention their music deserved during their time. Click below on the streaming service of your choice to listen to the playlist as you read along.
The early 1990s was an incredible period for modern rock music as for the second time there was a splintering of sounds into many new sub-genres. Electronic and synthesizer music had been growing and evolving, but in the late 1980s and early ‘90s it exploded as technology progressed and came down in price, empowering a new wave of artists that pushed its capabilities to new horizons. If guitars are not for you and you like a heavy dose of beats (and maybe a little noise and chaos) then this profile may be more for you than most others you’ll find at Ceremony.
Meat Beat Manifesto was an act that worked on the fringes and was one of the most experimental and interesting of this period. I discovered MBM as part of the regular sets at the Dance Cave club in Toronto and the albums 99% and Satyricon became two of my most played CDs over the next few years. They remain at the heart of why modern rock fans should be aware of this artist, even though in the beginning they were hard to classify.
MBM is primarily a DJ/musician/producer/mixer named Jack Dangers (John Corrigan), who formed MBM in 1987 with Jonny Stephens in Swindon, England. The duo had been working together along with Paul Freeguard as ‘Perennial Divide’ in 1986 but started working separately on MBM material in 1987 before deciding to go their own way. They were signed to Sweat Box Records in the UK and distributed by Wax Trax Records in the US, a label mostly known for industrial music. Recording of the first album began in 1988 but the tapes were lost in a fire, so their debut, Storm the Studio, didn’t come out February 1989 after a new batch of songs had been recorded. The lost songs were reproduced as best they could and eventually released as the second album, Armed Audio Warfare, in September 1990.
The first two albums experimented with a core industrial-electronica sound with occasional breakbeat and dance elements, ambient dub, and trip hop, acid house, rave, and techno vibes. All these adjectives were required since electronic music was being explored through so many different strains, all of which had their own niche scenes and groups based on the style of the music, its application, and the techniques. MBM drew on them all.
The band’s sound really came into focus on the third and fourth albums, 99% (released December 1990, just a couple months after the second album) and Satyricon. There was a little bit of everything on these albums whether you wanted to dance, chill out, trip out, or freak out (probably depending on your drug of choice). These albums stand out in MBM’s discography as their most accessible and pop oriented. “10x Faster than the Speed of Love” gave you a groovy dance song while “Circles” was basically a straight ahead pop tune, fitting into the Madchester scene even though they weren’t of that locale; this song would fit nicely with later acts such Beta Band.
The band was also known for putting on a lively, multi-media live show. I was fortunate to catch them as the opening act for 808 State at The Opera House in Toronto in April of 1993 and while they couldn’t put on their full show, they sounded great.
In 1993 Dangers relocated to San Francisco and MBM has essentially been his act with occasional guests. He signed with Nothing Records, a sub-label of Interscope and one pioneered by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. He has also provided remixes and production work both under his own name and as MBM, including work with Consolidated. All subsequent MBM albums have been mostly instrumental with use of film samples as the only vocal content. “Solid Waste” in 2008 was a rare occurrence in which Dangers provided his voice, making the song reminiscent of the earlier albums. The two recent albums in 2010 and 2018 have been very ambient and laid back. I’m not a big electronica or EDM fan and I can’t get into these albums. They sound too much the same, mixing beats and samples with ventures into jazz, blues, hip hop, and reggae – all generally fixed to the core industrial sound.
MBM is an acquired taste and not for everyone, even me for the most part. But Jack Dangers and his band was an influential part of the early wave of alternative electronic acts such as The Orb, 808 State, Orbital, The Shamen, and Consolidated that took the synth sounds of the ‘80s and through experimentation created new, multi-faceted sub-genres of electronica. Bands such as Hooverphonic and the later success of acts like The Prodigy, Chemical Brothers, and Daft Punk happened as a direct result of the path forged by MBM and their peers. Despite never being a commercial success MBM remains an important part of modern rock’s evolution.
The Playlist - song \ album (year)
God O.D., Pt. 1 - Storm the Studio (1889)
Repulsion - Armed Audio Warfare (1990)
Now - 99% (1990)
10x Faster than the Speed of Love - 99% (1990)
Deviate - 99% (1990)
Love Mad (YouTube only) - Volume One Magazine compilation or Now Remix cd (1991)
Mindstream - Satyricon (1992)
Drop - Satyricon (1992)
Circles - Satyricon (1992)
She’s Unreal - Subliminal Sandwich (1996)
Let’s Have Fun - Actual Sounds + Voices (1998)
Supersoul - R.U.O.K? (2002)
Wild - At the Center (2005)
Solid Waste - Autoimmune (2008)