Atari Teenage Riot

Is This Hyperreal?

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Arriving almost a decade after founding Atari Teenage Riot member Carl Crack was found dead in his Berlin apartment in September 2001, Is This Hyperreal? was a reboot for the group, with Alec Empire joined by returning member Nic Endo and new recruit CX Kidtronik. Though ATR could be seen as a remnant of the cyber-punk era, many of the band's fascinations in the ‘90s, such as using technology to smash the system, were more reality than fantasy in the 2010s. During the decade they were gone, the Internet became a tool for freedom and constraint with social networking, piracy, identity theft, and intellectual property issues among the day’s hot-button topics. The virtual reality of Internet life and its creep into “actual” reality -- and vice-versa -- gives Is This Hyperreal? its title and thrust. Though Atari Teenage Riot's approach to semiotics and postmodern philosophy is more sledgehammer than scalpel, their decidedly unsubtle attack captures the data panic of one world slipping into another. “Codebreaker,” a hacker anthem that seemed especially prescient with the actions of Wikileaks, Anonymous, and LulzSec around the time of Is This Hyperreal?'s release, repeats phrases like “our permissions are not granted!” as pounding guitars, synths, and drums do their best impression of being chewed up and spit out by countless zeroes and ones. Endo questions the fluidity of online personas on “Shadow Identity,” asking “who do you want to be and why?,” while “Digital Decay” portrays people as digital property, with slogans like “let’s abolish the grid” echoing all the way back to Delete Yourself! Musically, the band’s digital hardcore is just as assaultive as ever, though minus much of the jungle element of their original incarnation. When the trio explores less abrasive territory, as on the title track, it doesn’t quite work; Atari Teenage Riot still needs the Molotov cocktail energy of their usual sound, something that “Re-Arrange Your Synapses,” a panic button of a song, delivers in spades. Fittingly, the happiest-sounding songs here are also the most anarchic; the album closer “The Collapse of History” is downright poppy. Even after a decade away, Atari Teenage Riot are still equally angry and entertaining, and Is This Hyperreal? just may be one of their definitive statements.

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