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Music / Deceit

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The face of deceit.

"The whole speak, 'Little Boy', 'Big Boy' [sic], calling missiles cute little names. The whole period was mad! We had a firm belief that we were going to die and the record was made on those terms. The whole thing was designed to express this sort of fear, angst, which the group was all about, really."
Charles Hayward, This Heat

Picture this, it's the early 1980s: The Cold War was at its height, relations between the East and the West were deteroriating, and the likelihood of the whole planet being wiped out in the event of a nuclear disaster seemed to loom larger than ever.

In the midst of all this tension, three radically-minded musicians from London, stationed in a converted meat storage facility dubbed Cold Storage, used their collective talents to deliver their vision of how such a horrific event would pan out.

The result was Deceit, the second (and final) studio album by This Heat, released in 1981 through the Rough Trade label.

Musically, it's a very difficult album to categorise, as it incorporates elements of Progressive Rock, folk, free jazz, gamelan, field recordings and even Electronic Music; its raw production and diverse sound earned it something of a kinship with the Post-Punk movement, which took in similar influences. Whilst the album didn't deviate too much from the experimentation of the band's earlier work, it's argued that the introduction of more recognisable song structures on Deceit allowed the group to articulate their message much more clearly than before.

Happily, by the end of the decade, tensions between countries had eased and nobody got blown up, but at that point This Heat had already called it a day a few years prior. Whilst changing tastes in music had left Deceit (and the rest of This Heat's music in general) largely underground, its unorthodox song structures, uniquely DIY, collage-like approach to production and political leanings have developed a following in later years, and is considered an early precursor to Post-Rock.


Side A
  1. "Sleep" (2:13)
  2. "Paper Hats" (5:57)
  3. "Triumph" (2:55)
  4. "S.P.Q.R." (3:26)
  5. "Cenotaph" (4:35)

Side B

  1. "Shrink Wrap" (1:40)
  2. "Radio Prague" (2:21)
  3. "Makeshift Swahili" (4:04)
  4. "Independence" (3:39)
  5. "A New Kind of Water" (4:57)
  6. "Hi Baku Shyo 被爆症 (Suffer Bomb Disease)" (4:03)

"We are all tropers, we live to regret it":

  • After the End: Deceit is an aural account of what living in a post-apocalyptic society would entail.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "Paper Hats" is essentially a series of these.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The title of the final track, "Hi Baku Shyo 被爆症", translates to "a-bomb sickness" (the official translation given on the album is the more literal "Suffer Bomb Disease"). The pronunciation of it is very close to that on "Hibakusha" ("被爆者 or 被曝者"), the term used in Japan to refer to survivors of the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with only the third character traded out.
  • Call-Back/Dark Reprise:
    • "Shrink Wrap" opens with the same instrumental loop as "Sleep", but edited and messed around with to high heaven. It even possesses the same anti-consumerist message of "Sleep", but is more blunt and to the point with its criticisms. It's worth noting that, on the vinyl releases, both tracks open each side, intentionally done by the band as an attempt to confuse listeners.
    • "Independence" uses the same vocal melody as an older song, "The Fall of Saigon", but in reverse.
  • Capitalism Is Bad: "Sleep" and "A New Kind of Water" protest self-destructive, unsustainable consumerism.
  • Careful with That Axe: Hayward lets out some absolutely deranged screams, especially on "Paper Hats". In the liner notes for the album remaster, he stated that he learnt to let his voice go during the making of the record.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The cover, when it isn't being absolutely terrifying.
  • Downer Ending: The album ends on the unsettling instrumental "Hi Baku Shyo", which roughly translates to "a-bomb sickness".
  • Drone of Dread: Not as prominent as on their self-titled, but the band is still partial to horrifying sound collages. "Radio Prague" and "Hi Baku Shyo" almost sound like Throbbing Gristle compositions.
  • Eagle Land: "Independence", which is mostly a recitation of the Declaration of Independence over creepy instrumentation, implies the band takes a dim view of the country.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: A loose Concept Album about nuclear holocaust.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: During the recording of Deceit, the band made heavy use of children's instruments they found in old junk shops, such as panpipes, toy keyboards, kazoos, and even foley sounds from outside their own studio space.
  • Gaia's Lament: "A New Kind of Water" is largely about man's destruction of the environment through insatiable consumption of resources.
    "Eat, drink, and be merry
    For tomorrow we did eat electricity
    Drink five of the seven seas
    Here is a paralyzed sleet
    Here is a bubblebath rain
    Acrid stench and festering tongue
    New York, Moscow, Nairobi in flames"
  • Genre-Busting: The simplest way to put it would be a mutant hybrid of Post-Punk and krautrock, but the album's sound utterly defies simple categorization.
  • Gratuitous Latin: "S.P.Q.R." make uses of basic Latin phrases (many of which are usually the first to be taught in schools).
  • Harsh Vocals: Anytime Charles Hayward sings lead, especially on "Paper Hats" and "Makeshift Swahili".
  • History Repeats: "S.P.Q.R." and "Cenotaph" both despairingly look at how civilisation can't seem to avoid getting into wars, no more how many times it's happened over the course of history. The latter even namechecks this trope word for word.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Portrays how humanity's greed, hatred, and misuse of technology can destroy the planet.
  • Instrumentals: "Radio Prague" and "Hi Baku Shyo", though they're more like abstract sound collages rather than traditional instrumentals.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: "Sleep", a lullaby-like song - with lyrics that lampoon the persuasive, reassuring nature of commercials.
  • Lighter and Softer: When compared with their bleak, drone-heavy debut, Deceit is a lot more upbeat and focused on songs rather than sound collages. That being said, it's still really dark compared to most other albums.
  • Madness Mantra: "Rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb"
  • Nightmare Face: Just look at the album cover. Good god.
  • Nuclear Weapons Taboo: Invoked in the title of "Hi Baku Shyo", which references the Japanese name for radiation sickness caused by exposure to the atomic blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the title is even written in Kanji on the original LP release.
  • Red Herring: The melodic style and optimistic lyrics of opener "Sleep" is this in the context of the rest of the album, which is far less idealistic.
  • Screw the War, We're Partying: "A New Kind of Water" even references Isaiah 22:13 right at the beginning: "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow, we die".
  • Shout-Out: The lyrics to "Sleep" incorporates slogans taken from advertisements, whilst "Independence" is a straight reading of the first few paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence.
  • Siamese Twin Songs: "Triumph" into "S.P.Q.R", "Shrink Wrap" into "Radio Prague".
  • Vocal Tag Team: All three members of This Heat contribute vocals, often singing together in unison.
  • While Rome Burns: "Sleep" concerns rampant consumerism and quests for comfort, in the face of a complete nuclear annihilation looming over the horizon.

Sleep, sleep, sleep, go to sleep...