HTRK - Work (work, work)

The problem with pleasure nowadays is that it’s just really hard work. When the injunction to ‘enjoy!’ is no longer optional but a veritable demand in all aspects of our daily lives, desire and its consummation are no longer something special and rare but just a grind. Grind, grind, grind. A relentless grind from which we cannot escape. Labour isn’t just something we do between 9 and 5, it’s constant, pervasive – at the gym, the club, in bed we’re always “Working that body out”, as Jonnine Standish intones through the distant haze of ‘Work That Body’.

“Girls move to the back / Boys move to the front”, she drawls elsewhere, on standout ‘Eat Yr Heart’, over some genuinely industrial beats, the sound of persons and machinery locked in some doomed sex/death march. “Your body’s so perfect”, “You fill me up” are heard later, Standish’s choruses are like bizarre snatches from the clich├ęd, ironically passionless language of porno talk, cosmetics commercials and R&B tracks. Work (work, work) is both a mirror of contemporary sex and its inversion, mercilessly replicating its hydraulic, oppressive character whilst also peeling back the true horrors that are its runoff: contorted, mechanised bodies ripped apart and reassembled with petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals so that they may continue their macabre dance of interlocked limbs.

Manufactured pheromenones, plastic breasts, “glucose, cellulose, saccharine” (‘Eat Yr Heart’) – not to mention Viagra, amyl nitrate, Ketamine – sex truly is synthetic and we’re all doing bondage, whether we realise it or not. Looking for an emotional statement or genre-defining moment on this record can only miss the point – that the languorous pacing, stubbornly-looped programmed beats and abrasive textures are all there to teach us but one thing: at the end of all this grinding, we’re emptied out, as bleak as this album’s undeniably desolate atmosphere.