Justin K. Broadrick is one prolific sumbitch, no one can deny him that. Just counting since the beginning of 2008, the legendary Godflesh mastermind has recorded four new Jesu releases (counting splits, the new full length and the upcoming EP), the debut from the Aaron Turner collaboration Greymachine, the J2 album with Jarboe, and five releases from Final, this on-again-off-again ambient/electronic project. With all of this, not to mention playing live, it’s amazing the crazy Brummie finds the time to catch some shuteye.
But evidently he does, and likely by listening to Reading All The Right Signals Wrong.
Having origins way back in 1982, Final was, ironically, the first musical project Broadrick ever formed, this being release number 13 under the name. What you’ll find here is 47 minutes (80 with the pointless alternate mixes) of ambient ebb and flow containing the whole bag of tricks: swelling and fading keyboards, bass warbles, repetitive and very simple guitars, and an entire barrage of other unidentifiable sounds. All of these various elements are produced and mixed very well, as is to be expected of a release from JKB, but the lack of anything really engaging further exacerbates two things the album had going against it before it was even recorded. First, there is plenty of other music out there which achieves this eerie and moody atmosphere while maintaining a very high quality. Go buy some newer Earth. It doesn’t sound anything like this record, but it’ll sooth your bones and you’ll love every second of it. Second, Broadrick himself has made excellent use of ambiance in much of his other work. This includes just about everything by Jesu, which is effective because the ambiance is blended wonderfully with a musical style that he is obviously far more comfortable with. Add to these barriers the fact that Reading All The Right Signals Wrong is an utter chore to attentively listen to in its entirety, and you have an album that is almost instantly allocated “collectible” status.
As for the songs themselves, nothing is really offensively bad, just not notably good. “Wrong Signal” features slow, cyclical keys over shifting drones and warbles. It’s effective in achieving that trance-like quality, but the song doesn’t really go anywhere, a serious problem for a track lasting just under 16 minutes. “Stop at Red” is the only song which remotely stands out, making good use of slow-building guitars over the more common ambient noise, and seems to be reaching some sort of climax when everything starts to fade in a slow musical death. Unfortunately, this coda fails to be truly haunting, thus leaving the listener wishing for the pleasing guitars from the first two thirds of the song. And that’s really the story of the album: what you want to happen just doesn’t.
Admittedly, I’m a huge Justin Broadrick fan, and giving this album a poor review undoubtedly hurts me far worse than it hurts him, but it can’t be passed. Godflesh and Jesu will fit a hankering for his tunes 1,000 times before Reading All The Right Signals Wrong will get another spin, and if that hankering happens to be for sleep-inducing ambiance, there are plenty of other acts which accommodate in a far more enjoyable manner. The hardcore ambient nuts out there might have a far different opinion of this album, but it is highly doubtful that even that group will play this every week, or even every month. Spend your JKB bucks on the new Jesu full length instead.