Report from the Melody Maker 10 November 1990:
808 State and MC Tunes
The Waterfront, Norwich
ONLY a couple of the levels on the mixing desk are flickering but, if anybody in the audience realises, they obviously don't give a toss. The smoke machine is rammed into overdrive, whistles and air horns are engaged in a deafening battle, massive strobes aimed at the crowd add to the confusion and the whole place is jumping like a colony of pissed crickets. It's the opening night of The Waterfront and everyone is here to celebrate the end of a six-year campaign for this Norwich venue.
808 State are, of course, superb party leaders, primarily because they look utterly daft. Martin Price plays his keyboard with his nose, apparently unable to see a thing through his shades, Graham Massey sports a post-lobotomy haircut and Andy's movements are so wazzy that Bez would have had problems keeping up. Their old mate MC Tunes is in tow too, his baseball cap spinning right way round as he whips his head from side to side with each beat. His dancers synchronise their mania and a little girl at the back of the hall copies every step, at one point knocking a bouncer flying.
The sound is often no less wild; bleeps, squeaks, whoops and wheezes, all sorts of weird noises, are bowled against the hard, solid techno rhythms. Some ricochet off, some stick. "Cubik", for example, is a tumultuous thrash-House tune, an occasionally indecipherable spasm, Graham quickly giving up the idea of grappling with his guitar and letting it dangle from his neck, leaving him free to throw his hands in the air. To balance this there's always "Pacific State", but even this turns out to bean addled Acid stomp, the breezy melody only just managing to hold the track on course.
Tunes' rapping is a more successful steering device and although "The North At Its Heights" is largely unrecognisable, "The Only Rhyme That Bites" and "Tunes Splits The Atom" are direct hits, the words tumbling along with the latter's bassline. 808 State's hyperactive music suits his gritty voice live far better than it sometimes does on vinyl. He's really starting to get his show together and when a glass of beer thrown by some idiot in the audience slams into his chest he simply removes his shirt and carries on as if nothing has happened.