Streetcleaner

Streetcleaner
A fiery depiction of crucifixes in Hell, taken from a still frame of the film Altered States
Studio album by
Released13 November 1989
Recorded1988 (last four tracks)
May–August 1989 (main album)
StudioSoundcheck in Birmingham, England and Square Dance in Derby, England
GenreIndustrial metal
Length
  • 52:21 (vinyl and cassette releases)
  • 66:22 (CD releases)
LabelEarache
Producer
Godflesh chronology
Godflesh
(1988)
Streetcleaner
(1989)
Slavestate
(1991)

Streetcleaner is the debut studio album by English industrial metal band Godflesh. It was released on 13 November 1989 through Earache Records and was reissued with a second disc of previously unreleased material on 21 June 2010. The album is widely acclaimed by critics and is often cited as a landmark release in industrial metal; though not the genre's first release, Streetcleaner helped define what industrial metal would become.

Recorded in three distinct sessions and partially refined from pre-Godflesh demos, Streetcleaner is a weighty, bleak album that blends heavy metal with industrial music by means of production-emphasised bass, distorted guitar and, most importantly, machine percussion. Unlike many metal albums, guitar is employed to create screeching noise rather than discrete riffs, and the drums and bass are louder than is typical. Streetcleaner was supported by a series of concerts where Godflesh played alongside Napalm Death, and it was on the North American leg of the tour that the band began to gain significant international traction.

Since its release, Streetcleaner has received a number of accolades and has been performed in its entirety by Godflesh twice (once at Roadburn Festival, a recording of which was released as a live album in 2013). Many other metal bands have cited the album as particularly influential, including Neurosis, Fear Factory and Isis, and Godflesh frontman Justin Broadrick considers it one of his landmark releases. In 2017, Rolling Stone named Streetcleaner the 64th greatest metal album of all time.

Background and recording

Before performing as Godflesh, G. C. Green (bass) and Paul Neville (guitar) played together in a band known as Fall of Because.[1] That group, formed in 1982, were less overtly heavy than what they would become as Godflesh, drawing musical and aesthetic influence from bands like the Cure.[2] Future frontman Justin Broadrick (guitar, vocals and programming) joined Fall of Because in 1984 and introduced Green and Neville to Swans, Sonic Youth and Discharge.[2] Inspired by the dissonance of this music, the group recorded a demo called Extirpate (1986).[1] The songs "Devastator", "Mighty Trust Krusher", "Life Is Easy" and "Merciless" were included on this demo, the first three of which would be rerecorded for Streetcleaner.[3] These early versions were eventually released on a wide scale in 1999 via the compilation album Life Is Easy.[4]

A photograph of the model of drum machine used on Streetcleaner against a carpet background
An Alesis HR-16, the model of drum machine used for Streetcleaner's percussion

Shortly after Fall of Because dissolved in 1987, Broadrick and Green reconvened without Neville and, in April 1988, renamed the project Godflesh.[5] They released their debut self-titled EP on the independent label Swordfish later that year.[5] That EP, though described by critics as raw and unrefined, is considered one of the originating industrial metal releases and proved to be the foundation upon which Streetcleaner would fine-tune Godflesh's approach to the genre.[6][7][8][9] After the underground success of Godflesh,[10] the band played several shows across Europe and recorded a four-track EP titled Tiny Tears.[11] Before they could release the EP on Swordfish, Godflesh were acquired by Earache Records, and Digby Pearson, the label's head, urged the band to shelve the tracks and instead focus on putting out a complete studio album next.[11] Broadrick and Green agreed and began recording Streetcleaner in May 1989 at Soundcheck in Birmingham and Square Dance in Derby.[12]

The Birmingham sessions saw Broadrick and Green recording and mixing the first half of the album, while the Derby sessions (which yielded tracks six through ten) saw the temporary reincorporation of Neville into the band, this time as a second guitarist.[12] Tiny Tears was appended to the end of CD versions of Streetcleaner, resulting in the album including material from three separate sessions.[13] The entirety of the creative period was reinforced by an Alesis HR-16 drum machine.[14] This choice was at first made out of necessity since Broadrick could not play the beats he wanted acoustically (he described himself as "[not] a great drummer"),[14] but he came to embrace machine percussion and consider it a defining feature of Godflesh.[15]:2 Loudwire called the HR-16, specifically in regard to its use on Streetcleaner, "the most devastating drum machine ever employed".[16] In a retrospective interview, Broadrick described the release as "one of the most alienating albums" he had ever made and referred to it as the band's landmark record.[17]

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