Roughly two years after they performed Streetcleaner at Roadburn, a live document of the performance was released on vinyl. Once the vinyl was sold out, work on a C.D. / digital release was meant to commence. It appears as though the C.D. release may no longer be in consideration, but at least the digital version is now available.
So… Streetcleaner: Live at Roadburn 2011 is the recorded performance of Streetcleaner performed at Roadburn in 2011.
It’s Streetcleaner, but live.
The atmosphere of the songs is still rather bleak, although in places it is a little less oppressive due to things being lost in translation.
Some of the songs Streetcleaner were recorded with Paul Neville as a second guitarist. Due to the way the two guitars worked with each other, the bleak atmosphere was heavily reinforced. “Streetcleaner” had the most obvious benefit of this, with the guitar that played over the rhythm being much more sparse and being much more simple in execution. Sitting on top of everything, it added a lot of menace to the sound. Now that Godflesh are solely a duo, the second guitar has been replaced with synth and sampling which is unfortunately not completely up to the task of replicating the same atmosphere. At times it sits a bit too far away from everything and sounds a bit out of place. It may have been better for Justin to replicate the sounds of the second guitar himself whilst Ben Green had more distortion on his bass, but this could have lead to a situation where the sound ended up being far less clear than intended.
With that being said, Justin Broadrick does do a good job of playing each song. Part of what makes Streetcleaner sound the way it does is the focus on more discordant, sparser playing balanced with occasional melody as a counterbalance, and a reduction on the importance of chords. Justin hits each note with no obvious issue without sounding as though they were overly-rehearsed.
Quite possibly the best thing about the performance is that it reinforces the importance of Ben Green. His playing is much more evident due his bass commanding more presence than usual, with Justin working in unison with him or playing something that compliments. The thickness of it is highly emphasised in many of the songs as it plods along, still providing a solid frame with which to work.
The drum programming is quite punchy and feels much more present here, although at times it becomes much louder than than in other songs, almost becoming distracting. It’s difficult to tell as to whether this was due to the mixing in the live setting or some other reason, but it does remain an issue. However, what is more important is that there’s no problems with the programming failing, and within each song they remain consistent in volume.
One of the most overt changes is how the vocals are handled. Justin Broadrick’s scream is much more aggressive and blunt than when Streetcleaner was recorded, yet somehow this seems to lessen the impact as it lacks the intensity that his less conscious-sounding screaming did on the record. To be doing vocals in the same way this far into his life would most likely have done more damage to his vocal chords than his current style and admittedly it does manage to enhance some of the songs quite well, but overall it does have less impact. However, this should not be taken as a criticism as, again, it seems more out of necessity than anything else.
Furthermore, whilst his clean vocals have never been the best, Justin’s still work well for these songs. They’ve always added another element without detracting and fit well in the atmosphere of this performance.
Streetcleaner: Live at Roadburn 2011 is decent, if a little uneven. It’s hard to tell if this was a good choice for an official documentation of how Godflesh sounds live. Whilst it is hard to fault the album performed, it might’ve been better for something that included the same amount of tracks from a few of their releases. Then again, this is a festival performance and they might not have had the luxury of choosing as the set time could have gone far over what they were allotted. With all of this being said, the songs are performed quite well. At times it does sound like a mistake has been made, but this might be due more to being familiar with Streetcleaner.
Ultimately it is an honest performance of Streetcleaner and a good capturing of how Godflesh can sound live.