Tackhead's career has been so diverse and difficult to document properly that I'm not surprised one has to hunt and peck so much. There's the albums, but they're scattered across a number of different labels, sometimes sporting varying credits — "Gary Clail's Tackhead Sound System" or individual members like Keith Leblanc — rather than Tackhead proper. There's the early 12" singles, but they too are scarce, and also sometimes sport an entirely different name ("Fats Comet"). It's like using tweezer to pick sand grains off the ocean floor.
For a good long time, the Power Inc. anthologies came about as close as could be expected to picking up the pieces that mattered. There's still a lot missing from these two collections of tracks from across the best parts of Tackhead's career. But they touch on some of the most crucial moments, and if you combine this with Tackhead Tape Time and Keith Leblanc's Major Malfunction, you can assemble a good composite picture of one of the best bands to come out of the multi-way collision between funk, industrial, dub, and reggae that took place in the late Eighties.
A big part of what Power Inc. documents is not just the way the band changed from track to track, but the way any one track could show up in different forms across the band's history. Two of the best cuts on the first disc are also two of the best cuts the band ever waxed, "What's My Mission Now?" and "Hard Left" — both drum-machine-driven, funk-bass-limned monsters that incorporate spoken word samples, both angry indictments of a system that wastes money and human life in about equal measure. Here, we're presented with the original 12" versions, rather than the heavily remixed and Gary Clail-voiced versions that I first experienced on the Tackhead Tape Time album, and these versions are worth experiencing first for being all the clearer and more propulsive.
On the second disc, the same tendency shows up again with other tracks. For me, here, the real example is "Move It", the jaw-dropping Fairlight CMI/drum machine/studio technology carpet-bombing that also formed the basis for the pre-Twitch-era Ministry track "Move", and also showed up in significantly different mixes on Tackhead Tape Time ("M.O.V.E.") and Major Malfunction. The "Move It" version is the most crowded and noisy, the Tackhead Tape Time version a subset of that with some additional sampling, and the Ministry/Malfunction incarnations are the core of the song shown off to best effect, but it's all astonishing stuff every single time.
Another Malfunction track shows up here in a drastically different form, "Technology Works", this time with more guitar and bass and a little less of the sampled dialogue that gave the Leblanc album version its pointed cautionary context. And "Get This", familiar to Tackhead Tape Time shows up on disc 2 in a far longer, clearer mix.
Both volumes of Power Inc. also serve as decent anthologies to the group's major singles: "Ticking Time Bomb" (their introduction to a major U.S. label, where they failed to make the impact they deserved), "Original Sex" (a/k/a "Dangerous Sex", featuring Melle Mel), and the throbbing singles released under the Fats Comet moniker ("Rochester", "King of the Beat"). Until we get something resembling a Tackhead box set, the best of Tackhead is likely to be Some Assembly Required and Batteries Not Included.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind