What?!! No Test Department thread?!?

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Scott just mentioned them on the Laibach thread revival. I was gonna search for them the other day but I just did it now and got nothing.

I love everything this band did in the 80's. Classic/Search:

Beating The Retreat
Shoulder To Shoulder
Unacceptable Face Of Freedom
A Good Night Out
Terra Firma

then it get a little wobbly with:

Proven In Action
Materia Prima
Pax Brittanica

and descends into disco horror via the Invisible label.

I have to go now. Please discuss among yourselves or point me to a thread I missed. I will return to extol their virtues further.

sleeve (sleeve), Thursday, 15 December 2005 16:37 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Their best record ever by far (and only one I still own) was their debut "Compulsation"/Pulsations" 12-inch. Wow, I wonder if that's worth anything on ebay now...(checks)...nope, didn't see it there.

Wasn't their debut album, *Beating the Retreat*, a box set? How many bands have ever debuted with box sets? I kinda liked that one at the time, too, but sold my copy eons ago. After that, I thought they got kinda too foofy for my tastes, recording with striking miner's choirs and all that stuff. (Who I'm sure deserved the help, don't get me wrong. I'm just not a striking miner's choir kinda guy MUSICALLY.)

(Actually, these titles sound familiar: Shoulder To Shoulder and
Unacceptable Face Of Freedom. Was one of them with the miner's choir? I forget. I'm pretty sure I must have heard one or both, back then.)

xhuxk, Thursday, 15 December 2005 17:06 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

(So the obvious question is, how do I know their debut single is "their best record ever by far" if I haven't even heard most of their other records? Um, good question. But I did pay attention for a while, and they did seem to get less interesting as time progressed. I guess it's possible they got better again later, but I doubt it.)

xhuxk, Thursday, 15 December 2005 17:22 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Anyway, this says the single is worth $12.00:


That came up fifth on google (for "test dept." compulsion pulsations search); this came up fourth, ha ha:


xhuxk, Thursday, 15 December 2005 17:26 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

'shoulder to shoulder' was with the south wales striking miner's choir and was a benefit album for the striking miners.

stirmonster (stirmonster), Thursday, 15 December 2005 18:20 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Compulsion/Pulsations may indeed be their finest moment. Also very partial to the track on the Some Bizarre "If You Can't Please Yourself...." LP.

Beating The Retreat was originally issued as a double EP on 45 in a box, then reissued as a single LP. It's quite good as well.

The other albums all have amazing moments, but they get more and more varied - Scottish folk music (Good Night Out side 2), vicious political rants by aggrieved miners (GNO Side 1, Unacceptable Face), multilayered rhythm workouts (most of Terra Firma), Russian ballads (TF again), etc. I think they are all worth investigating. Sometimes the wild diversity doesn't come across so well as a whole. Certainly a unique band - a bizarre marriage of theater, politics, industrial noise, and folk music. Does anybody know why they started to be so awful in the 90's? Loss of key members, perhaps?

sleeve (sleeve), Thursday, 15 December 2005 19:10 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

t.d.a. - faces of freedom 12" was great too.

i think they got crap due to rave culture influences creeping in, key members leaving and various members having personal problems.

stirmonster (stirmonster), Thursday, 15 December 2005 19:14 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Sarah Jane Morris of "Don't Leave Me This Way" fame sings on A Good Night Out, IIRC.

The Vintner's Lipogram (OleM), Friday, 16 December 2005 00:22 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

I can't believe my Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock thread was more popular than this one. That's what you get for mixing politics and theater with your industrial noise.

sleeve (sleeve), Friday, 16 December 2005 17:33 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Astonishing live spectacle, records never really worked at all for me. Be curious to know to what extent they were aware of/influenced by Laibach starting out.

soukesian, Friday, 16 December 2005 19:24 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

A lot of Test Dept's stuff always seemed a bit dull to me. Like sleeve said, a little too "political," I think.

That being stated, however, "Gododdin" is a masterpiece. I seem to remember "Terra Firma" being pretty good, too.

vartman (novaheat), Friday, 16 December 2005 19:27 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

that foldout sleeve that came with Unacceptable Face record was bloody awful to actually look at .. but i loved the music. very stern and serious stuff for serious times.

have to agree i saw them live once, many years later, expecting not a lot, and never experienced such a glorious noise .. the bass booms they managed out of their metal structures was beyond belief.

mark e (mark e), Friday, 16 December 2005 20:20 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

A bit of random googling suggests Gray Cunnington and other key members are still active, though more on a performance art/theatre level. It's in my mind there was/is a scottish site-specific theatre group with a three initial name (not NSK!) that grew out of Test Dept.

My feeling is that their music has to be seen as just a part of a whole performance. And, yes, the political element was always a given.

Soukesian, Friday, 16 December 2005 20:44 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

test dept. toured with laibach in eastern europe in the early 80's and were firm friends. the scottish site-specific group is called NVA. they are still going and in fact i did the music for one of their events a few weeks ago.

stirmonster (stirmonster), Friday, 16 December 2005 21:23 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Cool! Thanks for those links.

sleeve (sleeve), Friday, 16 December 2005 21:28 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

Thanks for clearing up the Test Dept - Laibach connection. I've been wondering about that for years, as they seemed to emerge around the same time, doing work with a similar feel.

Thanks also for the NVA link. Always read about their activities after the event, maybe I'll be able to catch the next one.

Soukesian, Saturday, 17 December 2005 10:40 (thirteen years ago) Permalink

six years pass...

A revive of this thread could be timely. There has been a bit of twitter chat about TD lately, partly b/c the industrial revolution part of the Olympic opening ceremony was very TD-ish. Also there is a retrospective book planned for next year and even talk of more performances, which would be incredible.

my father will guide me up the stairs to bed (anagram), Monday, 27 August 2012 13:25 (six years ago) Permalink

yes! very much looking forward to the book. i contributed a short piece to it about how important the "shoulder to shoulder" album was to me as a teenager. fingers crossed for some performances.

stirmonster, Monday, 27 August 2012 14:23 (six years ago) Permalink

also, apparently danny boyle attended some of the large scale NVA / Test Dept. events in the late 80s/early90s so it seems fairly likely that was an influence on the industrial revolution segment of the opening ceremony.

stirmonster, Monday, 27 August 2012 14:25 (six years ago) Permalink

Cool, that would make sense. Much to my regret I never saw any of the large-scale TD events, but I saw a few of their late period club gigs when they had gone techno, which were a bit underwhelming. I also saw some of the early NVA events, which were breathtaking.

my father will guide me up the stairs to bed (anagram), Monday, 27 August 2012 14:34 (six years ago) Permalink

three weeks pass...


So, not a full-scale reunion then but a "computer based audio-visual performance environment". Shame.

my father will guide me up the stairs to bed (anagram), Monday, 17 September 2012 21:41 (six years ago) Permalink

three months pass...

First performance of TD:Redux at a festival in Belgium last week. Maybe it's unfair to judge by a shaky youtube clip, but it seems a bit underwhelming tbh. Still, I'll probably go if it hits my town.


my father will guide me up the stairs to bed (anagram), Monday, 17 December 2012 15:57 (six years ago) Permalink

one year passes...

TD:Redux was a bit of a letdown but this looks a lot more like it:


my father will guide me up the stairs to bed (anagram), Tuesday, 28 January 2014 10:17 (five years ago) Permalink

ah, it sounds from their fb page as if it's an installation rather than a performance. pity.

my father will guide me up the stairs to bed (anagram), Tuesday, 4 February 2014 09:17 (five years ago) Permalink

one year passes...


(Never knowingly heard them btw)

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 1 December 2015 12:27 (three years ago) Permalink


As Vic Reeves
As well as working and performing in bands in London, including being an original member of the Industrial/Experimental band Test Dept and performing onstage with them at their debut gig (then leaving soon afterwards), Reeves also joined the alternative comedy circuit under many different guises.

Is this true I wonder?

めんどくさかった (Matt #2), Tuesday, 1 December 2015 13:04 (three years ago) Permalink

i think he was very, very briefly as they shared a squat together.

stirmonster, Tuesday, 1 December 2015 13:10 (three years ago) Permalink

this was actually mentioned in a recent TD article in mojo.
made me do a double take.

mark e, Tuesday, 1 December 2015 13:20 (three years ago) Permalink

Yeah I guessed they were more of a loose collective when they started out, probably had their mums in the band for a bit too

めんどくさかった (Matt #2), Tuesday, 1 December 2015 13:24 (three years ago) Permalink

mums in the band = punk or what?

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 1 December 2015 15:05 (three years ago) Permalink

Both Vic and TD have their (performing) roots in Sarf London - they both played the Albany Empire in Deptford, for example.

sʌxihɔːl (Ward Fowler), Tuesday, 1 December 2015 15:18 (three years ago) Permalink

three years pass...

1st new single in 20 years:


sleeve, Thursday, 6 December 2018 22:59 (five months ago) Permalink

two months pass...

This has only two of the original members on it and in particular Angus Farquhar, whom I always thought of as the creative hub of the group in the 80s, is not involved. Not to say that it won't be worth hearing but it's not Test Dept as I remember them.

the word dog doesn't bark (anagram), Monday, 4 March 2019 15:28 (two months ago) Permalink

I'm not sure that is right. Not to take away anything from Angus, but TD was always a collective thing and I don't think he would want to take that credit. Also, he might not be an active particpant in the current line up (and wasn't in the 90s incarnation either) but is still a close ally.

While on the subject, I listened to "The Unaceeptable Face Of Freedom" in its entirety recently for the first time in a long time and it still sounds incredible. Also thematically feels very current in many ways too.

stirmonster, Monday, 4 March 2019 17:23 (two months ago) Permalink


stirmonster, Monday, 4 March 2019 17:24 (two months ago) Permalink

this new record is solid, way better than the 90's material imo

humorless and bitter, but that's how I like my politics these days

Emperor Tonetta Ketchup (sleeve), Wednesday, 6 March 2019 01:49 (two months ago) Permalink

update: this is my favorite release of theirs since Gododdin. thanks for the revive!

Emperor Tonetta Ketchup (sleeve), Wednesday, 6 March 2019 02:01 (two months ago) Permalink

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