More than three decades after Negativland coined the term "culture jamming," the group's media subversion tactics have become commonplace in the era of social media, memes, YouTube, and "fake news." True False, the first of two interconnected studio albums from the plunderphonic pioneers, examines the media's effect on our mental health and our perception of reality, touching on subjects such as climate control and the collapse of capitalism. The release is a return to the style of collage-songs heard on some of the band's best-known works, like Escape from Noise and Dispepsi, and perhaps the most exciting news for longtime fans is that the Weatherman, the group's notoriously reclusive vocalist who hasn't contributed to any of their albums since the early 2000s, is all over this one. While his gloriously humdrum vocal intonation and surreal asides are always a delight, the cast of thousands unwillingly providing the album's source material are the stars of the show. Many of the sound bytes and concepts used on this album have been staples of Negativland's live performances and Over the Edge radio broadcasts for ages, including material devised by Don Joyce, Richard Lyons, and Ian Allen, three significant members of the group who passed away a few years before the album was released. Even with the presence of older content, the album in no way resembles a clearinghouse of old ideas -- it's plainly obvious that they've been working on this material for a long time, and saving it for the right project. On "Certain Men," the ever-perky Weatherman exclaims that "certain men will always get their way in the end, and the government wants it that way!" over a blippy dance beat. "Cadillac," another long-running OTE bit, twists a mantra-like repetition of the titular brand name around zipping car noises and a clapping rhythm, while the Weatherman spouts out nonsensical street names. Most outrageous of all is "Fourth of July," centered around the temper tantrum of an edgelord who rants that nobody will share any of her 15 daily Facebook posts, and that social media outlets are "all tools of the left" which should be used against them. Just as disturbing and hilarious is "Mounting the Puppy," in which a business executive describes "happiness engineering" techniques -- a series of employee motivational programs that sound like bizarre hazing rituals. Like the best of Negativland's work, True False is both absurdly humorous and frighteningly relevant.
AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson