Atari Teenage Riot: Is This Hyperreal?

A swift kick in the nuts to the status quo.     

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson


When Atari Teenage Riot disbanded after 1999’s 60 Second Wipeout, and the death of MC Carl Crack, an interesting voice in music seemed to be silence. ATR wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea. Their razor sharp, antiseptic combination of programming, harsh noise, loud guitars and sometimes-danceable beats, could come off as both awe inspiring and pretentious. I enjoyed them because they were loud, pissed off and a real spit in the face of the early nineties grunge movement. I also had a thing for Hanin Elias, and who could blame me. This year the band is unleashing Is This Hyperreal?, a reunion record of sorts.


Okay, first the bad news. The only original member on the album is Alec Empire. A voice issue forced Hanin Elias to step down, leaving female vocal duties in the hands of Japanese noise artist Nic Endo. Filling the rapper slot is CX Kidtronik, whose style picks up right where Carl Crack left off. Kidtronik flows with a stream of consciousness pattern, like jazz scatting for the modern age. It gives a touch of an older musical elegance to ATR’s unmerciful futuristic landscape. If there had to be a replacement for Hanin Elias, Nic Endo is it. Having worked with ATF before, Endo understands what’s need from her instrument. She deftly twists and turns between singing, screaming, and rambling. Both Nic and Kidtronik bring something new to the table for the ATR sound but without trying to recreate the wheel.


Is This Hyperreal? return Atari Teenage Riot in grand style. Opening with “Activate”, the record never lets up. The music is constantly hammering down on you like a thousand hammers backed by a political mantra. This isn’t a subtle record or one that has much to do with dynamics. ATR wants to get in, beat the shit out of you, and get back out. “Blood In My Eyes” showcases Nic Endo’s vocals over a freak out of varying beats. Layered within those beats are guitars and various noise samples. The title track is a frenetic call to arms that has its roots based in Orwellian paranoia. The little bits of vocals are either questioning the reality of it all or dictating to the enslaved masses. 


“Shadow Identity” is one of groovier numbers on the record with Nic Endo doing her best Cherrie Currie voice in the sing along chorus. “Re-Arrange Your Synapses” is a Public Enemy song on speed, complete with raging siren and vocals about changing your mind before the man catches you. Is This Hyperreal? screeches, beats, slams, feedbacks and claws it’s way through all ten tracks. This isn’t an easy album to listen to or digest, but that’s what violent revolution would sound like. 


I’ve always felt that Atari Teenage Riot was kindred spirits with Refused. Clearly Refused was a superior band, but both showed a road that punk might have taken.  Refused showed us a path marked by off time structures and heavy riffage, while Atari Teenage Riot uses beat machines, samplers and technology. At their heart ATR is a punk band, a revolutionary thought process put to a backbeat that demands attention. Regardless of the tools, Is This Hyperreal? is, like all good punk records, a swift kick in the nuts to status quo.