The Tyranny of the Beat: Original Soundtracks From the Grey Area is, essentially, the secret history of Mute Records (via subsidiary The Grey Area). The title may indicate dance music, but the "beat" here comes closer to industrial than techno. As Biba Kopf's liner notes state, "Beat presently imposes itself as the martial law controlling all expression. Music is now only music if legitimized by Beat. And the dancehall represents society under disco lockdown." Although many familiar names are included, the tracks are rarely the most obvious. For instance, instead of, say, the oft covered "Mother Sky," Can is represented by "Oh Yeah" (1971). Instead of "Ex Lion Tamer" or "Strange" (both from seminal recording Pink Flag), Wire is represented by a live version of "Our Swimmer" (1979). And so it goes with the rest of the selections on this 17-track sampler. Consequently, quite a few of them are now hard to find elsewhere. Many of the top British, German, and Australian noise merchants from the 1970s and '80s are present and accounted for. This includes such interesting side projects as Dome (featuring Graham Lewis and Bruce Gilbert from Wire) and the Boys Next Door (Nick Cave's pre-Birthday Party outfit). Those with an interest in experimental and electronic music could do worse than to track down these soundtracks for imaginary movies or the actual video companion of the same name, which features nine of the same artists (ten on the U.S. version).
AllMusic Review by Kathleen C. Fennessy