808state live at G-MEX, Manchester 16 March 1990

Report from Melody Maker, 7 April 1990:

808 State
G-MEX, Manchester

RECENT reports that 808 State's appearance on "The Late Show" signalled The Death Of Rock, the ultimate triumph of gormless, hyper-efficient artifice over blood-and-sweat artistry, have not been exaggerated. They are absolutely true. 808 State are a mess of gadgets, wires and doodles, engineered with super-competent finesse by four apprentice electricians. But here, tonight, enhanced by the brilliantly defined G-Mex mix and the awesome sight of 10,000 Mancunian fashion victims mobilised by an almost fascist purity of faith, 808 State exert tremendous fascination.

Green laser lights beam 808 State's name onto plant-sized expanses of black cloth suspended from the ceiling, abetted by state-of-the-art graphics, while top DJs pump out a series of immaculate Acid beats, before Graham, Martin, Andrew and Darren arrive on stage at exactly the appointed time. This is the promise of early Eighties pop-gig dreams fulfilled; no gaps between tracks, no pause in the dance avalanche. 808 State achieve the impossible by recreating, live, the infinite fantasy experience of listening to records in your bedroom.

Any misgivings about 808 State's complex of multiple-tempo rhythms and perplexingly intricate attention to detail being too fastidious or boffin-centred for club vultures are immediately blown away by the elaborate techno jazz-funk quake of "Cobra Bora", which is like watching a computer pogo. 808 State don't alienate groove cultists, as some reviewers suspected of their "Ninety" LP. The scientifically constructed components that make up fussy masterpieces such as "Boney Ween" and "That Bite" may sound threateningly cerebral in theory; in practice, they jolt like nothing so physical since Frankie or Shannon or "Blue Monday".

Coincidentally, the chap in the natty black jogging pants and yellow sweat-top lending his angelic tonsils to "Magical Dream" appears to be Bernard Albrecht, singer with local best band in the cosmos, New Order. The smooth way he glides on, with the minimum amount of showbiz blather and copious heaps of boy-next-door charm, neatly sums up this event. So cool, so unforced, such controlled but overwhelming might.

Three years ago, this was a ghost town scattered with paranoid jangle bands and crippled by nostalgia for better days. Right now, the glamorously rejuvenated Manchester dances and looks as though New York is some provincial mining village north of Barnsley. And 808 State, this motley assembly of musos and spinmasters, offer the heaven-sent soundtrack for this city's collective repossession of pop-cultural power. Phenomenal.

PAUL LESTER