One of the pivotal figures of British music over the past couple of decades, Trevor Jackson (Playgroup, Output Recordings, DJ par excellence and sleeve designer for early U.K.house label Champion) has impeccable taste and even better timing. Metal Dance, his collection of mostly early-to-mid-’80s records that walked the tightrope between the dance clubs and the post-punk and industrial scenes, is a reminder of this fact. With contemporary ears opened by the rediscovery of artists like Chris & Cosey and the minimal wave reissues, and former Goths taking their black lipstick out of the closet, the world is now safe for a critical reappraisal of the death-rock shtick of Alien Sex Fiend.
However, for all the severe haircuts, sunken cheekbones, lyrics about having sex with corpses and harsh percussion sounds, the tracks collected on Metal Dance really move something. Marked by pulsating post-Moroder synths, unforgiving kick drums and experimentation with dub techniques, Metal Dance once again showcases the strange bedfellows necessitated by the Reagan-Thatcher years: Italo disco kingpin Mario Boncaldo (here re-editing a cut from John Carpenter’s Escape From New York!) and Danceteria DJ and former Madonna beau Mark Kamins rub shoulders with Australian industrial refuseniks SPK and intense Yankee social realists Executive Slacks. Many of these records, particularly Severed Heads’ “Dead Eyes Open,” Secession’s “Touch” and Pete Shelley’s “Witness the Change,” were big at clubs like New York’s Danceteria and London’s Camden Palace, where they would be played alongside electro, boogie, freestyle and Italo disco to create the crucible in which house music was born.