Reigniting after a three-year recording silence Total Control’s venerated collection of underground talent are at it again. Direct and dark, 2014’s Typical System was a shock to the senses. In sharp contrast, Laughing At The System isn’t an album of polish and predictability, but roughhewn excitement. This time around they’re cutting across a little more challenging.
Opener ‘Laughing At The System’ reminds listeners of the fact. Here the polished amalgam of post punk and synth pop of the group’s previous record is swiftly crumpled into jittery noise and dissonant sludge. If anything it feels like ‘Laughing At The System’ is taking the entire notion of Typical System and throwing it out the window.
‘Future Crème’ strains to tug the album back into a semblance of structure. As with the remainder of the record, ‘Crème’ seems to revel in a lingering state between frayed stability and the elemental energy of sonic chaos. Total Control are toning back the bleak pathos for a more of a spit-in-your-face attitude.
But they’re not hocking it at you dear listener. You’re down here at the bottom with them. A comrade in arms sharing the inevitable futility of human existence.
Total Control have the sound and canny to go anywhere, but with this recording, they’ve chosen to pull their listener into the sweaty backroom of some overcrowded bar. A publican looks on confusedly, wondering why they’ve had to turn off the venue’s triple j buzz-band playlist for this carp, but you know better. There’s no crowd-pleasing showmanship or accessibility here. Two walk-in audience members fumble clumsily for their phones. Not just to distract them from the band but also the fact there’s a two-dozen-plus local weirdouts standing in the room absolutely losing themselves in the music.
The warmer ‘Luxury Vacuume’ and ‘Cathie and Marg’ lean back into their own mellower vibrations. Closer ‘Laughing At The System 2’ ends the record in a howl and moan of musical violence. If there’s a consistency with the outfit’s previous work, it’s the gloomy realism present within lyric and sound.
Total Control’s third LP comes as a statement. Its raw punky style pokes the listener in the chest to inform them that this group, like most individuals, chafe within the idle boredom of blank universality and repetition. Laughing doesn’t indulge in expectation, it bats it away and grabs the listener by the hand as it transports them to someplace better.