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Atari Teenage Riot – Is This Hyperreal?

May 25, 2011 by  


Atari Teenage Riot – Is This Hyperreal?

NAME: Atari Teenage Riot
ALBUM: Is This Hyperreal?
DATE: 20June2010

LABEL: Digital Hardcore


FIVE WORD REVIEW: Set Your Faces To ‘Cringe’


LINE UP: Alec Empire – Synth Nic Endo – Vocals CK KiDTRONiC – MC


WHAT’S THE STORY?: Remember those heady teenage years? Longer ago than you’d care to remember but still fresh in the mind, gleaming with sweat and unpleasantness. You may have happened upon a little band called Atari Teenage Riot who sang loudly of revolution and ‘sticking it to the man.’ This music may have captured your imagination and altered your constantly evolving view of the world. Even their name would have appealed to your enraged little sensibility. Perhaps you went out and bought a Che Guvara T-shirt for £5 at Camden Market with only the vaguest idea of who the man was. Perhaps you drew little Anarchist symbols in Tippex all over your school bag and proclaimed loudly the evils of big corporations while guzzling McDonald’s with your acne-ridden chums. Ah, memories, misty watercolour memories of the way we were…

Time makes it’s way in the world, and with the exception of Alec Empire’s successful solo work, Atari Teenage Riot sat dormant within your recollections like a grizzly little volcano until years later… You are in your twenties now and met with the news that they are BACK. With a new member no less and a fresh album. You tremble in anticipation as you hold in your slightly aged, nicotine-stained hands ‘Is this Hyperreal?’ ….

SOUNDS LIKE: Well, is this Hyperreal? In a word, no. Hopefully in the years between dalliances with ATR you read a book or two, and will know the many vague definitions of this word. Everyone from Zizek to Jameson has had a crack at defining the ‘Hyperreal’ and this album bares no relation to any of them. Sorry guys. Better luck next time.

You’ll want to love this album. Musically it is flawless – scattergun beats over chaotic synth and a constant thudding bassline, digitalised enough to sound clean, but never too clean. Each song, musically, would make you jump around like no-one’s business if it cropped up at a club. ‘Sounds good,’ you think. But wait. There is a fly in this tasty ointment, and that fly, dear friends, is the lyrics. They are absolutely appalling, dragging the music into some pretty embarrassing territory. In fact some of the tracks on this album sound like they could constitute the soundtrack to a speedy, nonsensical anime. You know the kind. Where a guy has an unfeasibly large sword, another guy has an even larger sword and they fight for half an hour while your IQ plummets and a part of you dies. That bad, folks.

Little 14 year old you would maybe appreciate their po-faced, cod-political lyrics, but older, wiser you balks at the cheesyness of it all. Essentially, the lyrics boil down to bursts of obviousness – ‘CAPITALISM IS REALLY BAD YOU GUYS’ and ‘PEOPLE SPEND A GREAT DEAL OF TIME ON THE INTERNET’ shouted loudly and insistantly into your trembling ears. Weighty issues indeed, but ones that sound like they have been tackled by the most special of special children – the musical skill outmatches these by miles. The problem with an overreliance on political lyrics is that they have the potential to be pretty alienating for fans. Too abstract and you sound pretentious, too obvious and it all sounds a bit Limp Bizkit with a conscience. And you don’t want that. Hoo no. Clearly ATR’s heart is in the right place, but an absolutely great album is tarred by the vocalists’ incessant bleatings. They beat you senseless with their flimsy points until it becomes difficult to stomach any more musings on ‘digital decay’. Honestly. Spare yourselves. Please.

If you have the fortitude to somehow screen out these verbal assaults then congratulations – this is the album for you, a triumph of manic beats and well-placed digitalism. If your will to nostalgia is so great you can swallow any obligations to the awful lyrics and enjoy the album for what it is then congratulations – you are made of sterner stuff than I.

YOU’LL LIKE THIS IF: You get off on passionate sloganeering and techno beats


Submitted By Nadia




18 Responses to “Atari Teenage Riot – Is This Hyperreal?”
  1. ALEC_EMPIRE says:

    a music ‘critic’ who is building his/her argument upon made up & false quotes to make a point is …ermm…an amateur?


    oh yes…nowhere…mmhh… strange…anyway if Nadia has questions about the lyrics. I’m here to answer them and explain.

    All the best from Berlin,


  2. Nadia says:

    Oh, wow :|

    If you read closely you’ll find I said ‘Essentially, the lyrics boil down to…’ meaning not a direct quote but the essence I got from them.

    Hope that clears that up!

    And yes, I am indeed an amateur at this – as are many of us on this site trying our hand at music criticism. Not much of an insult :)

  3. Andrew Sabisky says:

    Alec: it is rarely a good idea to respond to your critics. If your counter-criticisms are detailed and accurate, you have likely wasted your time simply to make it look as though you take yourself too seriously. If your counter-criticisms are somewhat personal and…abbreviated…you make yourself look petty and rushed. It’s a bit of a lose-lose. Best to keep silent on reading the reviews, if you read them at all.

  4. ALEC_EMPIRE says:

    I will always start a dialogue with critics who take the easy way and sum up lyrics without really going deeper into them.

    The reason why the music press is on its way down is because it has become corrupted and can’t afford proper journalists anymore. That is dangerous.

    I LOVE (negative) criticism because it makes me think about my own work while many people just kiss my ass.(Which doesn’t really mean much)

    But to just make a statement like Nadia did, doesn’t cut it…

    anyway…I have offered the dialogue to you guys… Because we are artists who don’t believe in hierarchies (also not in the media), and I take every ‘criticism’ serious.

    So what’s up?

    Do you want to go into the lyrics or not?

    Because essentially the lyrics DON’T boil down to what Nadia wrote.

    I am here and ready to go… :)


  5. Nadia says:

    Hi Alec,

    Yes of course, feel free to go into your lyrics.

    But seriously, regardless of how much I get paid and the fact that admittedly yes, I am somewhat of an amateur at this, there is nothing ‘dangerous’ about my opinion being on this website. If you read the ‘About’ section of RHV it’ll tell you that our ethos is one of ‘strong opinions.’ I did my job and gave my opinion which happened to be negative regarding one aspect of an album. That’s it. No ‘corruption.’ If you think my review doesn’t ‘cut it’ that’s up to you. I was asked to write a short review of the album, not a critical analysis of the lyrics.

    I said nothing about hierarchies, you are free to post here what you wish, but as Andrew said above, personal remarks make this all look a bit silly on your end.

    I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who will love this album and a lot that won’t – it’s just opinions.

  6. ALEC_EMPIRE says:

    Yes, I want a strong opinion. And I don’t see a negative review as a threat or dangerous, I am welcoming free speech (while major record labels have built a corrupt system that is about paying for ‘raving’ reviews with ads. This screws up what journalism is about.).

    I said that we don’t believe in hierarchies to explain that I am open to even discuss those topics with a fairly small website (this was more targeted at Andrew).

    You see I WANT you to express your opinion, but would also like to read about WHY you feel like that and argue against our views. To just make a wrong assumption of the lyrics (because it is clearly NOT what we are saying on the record) to make your point is not enough.

    Anybody can say a record sucks or is great. But a review should be about WHY you came to that opinion. Now…if you got the point about the lyrics right, awesome, but either you clearly didn’t understand them or manipulated that part in your review.

    I am glad you offered to do an interview….

  7. RED says:

    The writer’s qualification is irrelevent. It’s a well-written and informed opinion, whether you agree with it or not. RHV prides itself on answering to no-one and thus producing reviews which accurately represent the thoughts of genuine music fans.

    Perhaps the lyrics are mis-interpreted – but then the lyricist should’ve made sure his point was clear, unless he was aiming for ambiguity? Judging by Alec’s comments, I guess not.

    Getting political is a sure way to divide your audience. Some will love it, others will hate it. However, as an artist, you put your work on show and negative reaction is always a possibility. The same with us as writers. Rising to the bait, however, maybe reveals more about you than your product…

  8. ALEC_EMPIRE says:

    Not really… If you criticize lyrics you should explain what you find wrong about them.

    She says “Essentially, the lyrics boil down to bursts of obviousness – ‘CAPITALISM IS REALLY BAD YOU GUYS’ and ‘PEOPLE SPEND A GREAT DEAL OF TIME ON THE INTERNET’ ”

    That is NOT the case, nowhere on the record.

    I’d love to hear where we say anything like that on the record.
    Because we don’t… The lyrics couldn’t be clearer to understand. And if there is something you don’t understand, just ask.

    If someone listens to the lyrics and writes “Essentially, the lyrics boil down to bursts of obviousness – ‘CAPITALISM IS REALLY BAD YOU GUYS’ and ‘PEOPLE SPEND A GREAT DEAL OF TIME ON THE INTERNET’ ”
    it’s like saying The Clash’s “London Calling” is about acid house and Brazil.

    anyway…we’re here and open…

    by the way…we believe that a good review should trigger a discussion, make people think, curious… negative or positive. It should be a constructive thing. Ideally artists comment on them, the readers, everyone who is involved.

    Get used to the new times… the century where the ‘music critic’ was the gate keeper and creator of opinions is …o v e r … (same goes for the artist)

    I’d love to see her adding what is really said on the record and why she disagrees…otherwise it’s hard to take the ‘criticism’ serious…


  9. RED says:

    I’ve not listened to the record, but yes, some examples of lyrics would improve the review – particularly for this dicussion.

    However, there’s so much that goes into a record, our writers can’t justify every single point with examples. Or, they could, but I’d edit half of it out because we keep to a word count. Other publications do things differently, but we create short, informed reviews.

    No-one here suggests that a music critic is a gatekeeper or creator of opinions. In fact nearly all our contributors are hobby writers and music fans, and anyone that can demonstrate a love of music and the understanding of basic grammar can join the team. No elitism here.

    I agree that mediums such as this are ideal for sparking debate, but I wouldn’t get so offended by it.

    Nadia states why she doesn’t like the lyrics:
    “…cheesyness of it all. Essentially, the lyrics boil down to bursts of obviousness….shouted loudly and insistantly”
    “Weighty issues…but ones that sound like they have been tackled by the most special of special children…”
    “…political lyrics [can] be pretty alienating for fans…incessant bleatings…”

    Much more detail would’ve been overkill.

  10. David Houssein says:

    I come as a former RHV writer and a fan of Alec Empire.

    Alec – I really respect that you’ve come here to respond. I’ve pulled many artists on their shit [not accusing you of being shit] and that’s normally greated with radio silence or being banned from their forum!

    My take on this? Nadia *could* have phrased it differently, in a way that wouldn’t have coaxed a reaction and still made the same point, but every writer has their own style and this needs to be respected.


    “The reason why the music press is on its way down is because it has become corrupted and can’t afford proper journalists anymore. That is dangerous.”

    This is a cheap shot. Print journalism is in decline [this is not limited to music], and the result of this is that “amateurs” get a look in on websites like this.

  11. ALEC_EMPIRE says:

    look…I am not offended at all (if stuff like this would offend me, I would have stopped a long time ago ;)

    this is where we mention the internet:

    “The internet….
    Is it worth the creation of a black hole that sucks up our time, creativity and friendships?
    Some believe the every day mobile device is as powerful as a nuclear hand grenade when it comes to starting a revolution!

    Re-arrange your synapses

    The ideologies behind that type of thinking aren’t exactly solid, my friend!
    When the authorities catch up with us, and they will, not such a good idea to leave traces and expose your whole network at once.
    Anonymous Teenage Riot
    Atari Teenage Riot
    Who is ever going to believe your story?

    Re-arrange your synapses

    The Nazis would have strangled Einstein in his crib if they had known.
    Modern government decisions caused deaths of tens of thousands for profits
    We’re about to live through dark times
    Re-arrange you synapses

    The survivors of the holocaust are soon gone.
    But their voices still resonate when we look at the future of control technologies
    The walk in the park will be a walk in the dark if we don’t act!
    Spy on your neighbors, phone in a threat
    Don’t question yourself, you’re a hero
    Imagine attacks others might carry out
    Look at what our society has become
    Anyone can get tortured, anyone can disappear. Isn’t this terror?
    Re-arrange your synapses

    Capitalism – you’re a little fat man in a big expensive car hanging over a ravine here!”

    It’s funny that I just did an interview with Steven Levy who wrote Hackers (and many other books about this technology) – he was interested in the story because according to him nobody has recorded music with those topics yet.

    If those types of experts don’t see anything ‘cheesy’ in this, it would be interesting to hear why Nadia feels this way.


    It’s ok to admit that she didn’t really pay attention to the lyrics…

  12. ALEC_EMPIRE says:

    @David “This is a cheap shot. Print journalism is in decline [this is not limited to music], and the result of this is that “amateurs” get a look in on websites like this.”

    I mentioned why I care about it because she responded: “But seriously, regardless of how much I get paid and the fact that admittedly yes, I am somewhat of an amateur at this, there is nothing ‘dangerous’ about my opinion being on this website.”

    We all need better and unfiltered music criticism! That is why I commented.
    because there are enough people out there who ‘assume’ stuff without really looking at what’s really going on.

    If you hate the record, cool, but please really attack it, destroy it, but not take this lame route, making stuff up that is said nowhere on this album…

  13. RED says:

    It sounds like you’re offended. But your first line of lyrics are nicely ironic given this comment thread.

    Personally, on these kinda themes I prefer lyrics to be more esoteric, individual and contemplative. However, I’m sure others will enjoy what you’ve written, Mr Levy perhaps being one of them.

    Bemoaning the world’s faults won’t improve them. But that’s a whole ‘nother issue…

  14. RED says:

    Alec – we get lots of stuff to review all the time. We can’t (and don’t) analyse every nuance in a record. We listen to it a few times, read the press release, do a little research where necessary, then write the review.

  15. Andrew Sabisky says:

    Ok, this is ridiculous. Having read through this thread and listened to a bunch of clips, the ideology expressed in the lyrics comes down to:

    1) The Internet eats your time, and is an instrument of government control:
    2) We live in a Nixonian world of non-stop COINTELPRO-style government control programs.
    3) Capitalism is a bad thing

    Am I roughly right? The general thread seems to be the sort of stuff Peter Joseph pushes via the Zeitgeist movement and associated movies, plus some additional hate for the web (fair enough, given the Chinese government’s use of the web to track dissidents – on the other hand, it seems to have played a useful role in Arab Spring. We’ll see).

    Now, with no particular comment on the subject matter of all this, IMO that is plenty close enough to the substance of Nadia’s review; this is more than sufficient to refute the charge of “making stuff up”. She has done nothing of the sort. It is perfectly fine to tell a reviewer that he/she is wrong. It is not really on to attack their integrity for no particular reason. Reviewers and reviewees need each other in this world of ours, and while it is perfectly fine for them to bash each other with steel chairs inside steel cages, the fans don’t like it if one or the other runs to the General Manager to arrange a Loser Leaves Town Lumberjack match (how’s that for an extended wrestling metaphor?).

    signing off,


  16. Martin Headon says:

    All I can say is, what kind of arrogance and self-delusion must you be labouring under to write a line like “when the authorities catch up with us”?

  17. Nadia says:


    Haven’t had much internet for a while…

    I didn’t make anything up. I gave my opinion. That’s it, I really don’t know what else to say – I think Andrew summed it up perfectly reasonably. We shall have to agre to disagree as I’m not going to review this again. I wrote an *opinion* based on several listens to the album and as RED explained, any more would have been edited out to make it a more compact read, as is the house style here. Sure, some of us over-egg our criticisms in a way that (hopefully!) is entertaining for our readers but it is never based upon fabrication. That would not be fair to anyone.

    Hope that clears that up. If you want to continue explaining your album and ideas, please do by all means but I’ve said all I feel I need to on this thread and have a big ol’ pile of albums waiting for me..


  18. ALEC_EMPIRE says:

    glad you’re back online again ;)

    @Red I am not offended…just offering dialogue because there seemed to be a misunderstanding about the lyrics.

    a few weeks after we wrote the song, news like this were published…

    In Germany there are cases were activists got arrested b e f o r e they even committed ‘a crime’ because of statements they made online.

    If you think the song sucks, fine, but this stuff is really going on.

    We believe that we as users of the internet have to defend freedom of speech and the idea of the free internet. This is the message (and not that we should leave the internet or something).

    About ‘capitalism is a bad thing’.
    We say pretty much since 20 years that we are anarchist libertarian.

    Which means that we think that the State should be abolished IF it does mafia up with multi national corporations because then it becomes a fake democracy. Then corruption is the consequence. (That is a fact, not our opinion.)

    I assume you are aware of how the financial crisis was handled by politicians, and that so far NOTHING has been done to protect you and me from the next banks failure. (which will result in you losing your pension, your house, your job etc.)

    Hope this clears it up what we say on this album…


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