Susanna Vance
Characterized as a fusion of Front 242 and Public Enemy, Consolidated is one of the most radical music projects in America--1989's Friendly Fascism LP was even voted one of the 10 most political albums of all time by the Alternative Press. Yet after nine LPs, Consolidated's heart and sole member, Adam Sherburne, has decided to turn his back on record labels, releasing his newest album, The End of Meaning, as a DIY project distributed by word of mouth and on the internet.

Originally based in the Bay Area, Sherburne moved to Portland some nine years ago. Since then, he has released three albums, yet he lives in relative obscurity in a town that would surely embrace him and his message. While Sherburne shuns the limelight, much of his popularity has eroded due to a series of disastrous record label disputes. Creative control battles and poor marketing decisions pitted Consolidated against record labels in the past, and exacerbated its de-evolution from a trio to an individual music project. "I've had an antagonistic relationship with record labels for years," states Sherburne. "This DIY project was really the best way for me to have total freedom, both creatively and in my ability to criticize the Culture Industry from the outside."

The End of Meaning is just that--a broad indictment of the culture machine that controls the mainstream media. Songs on the CD cover topics like Napster, the news media's misinterpretation of the Makah whale hunt at Neah Bay, WA, and the merging of pop music and the porn industry.

Sherburne is especially passionate about what he sees as the mainstreaming of the Sex Industry. His song "Speech and Harm" drives home his message that the vast majority of women involved in pornography were sexually abused as children. The song juxtaposes audio drops on sexual abuse with glib rock stars commenting on the harmlessness of pornography. These samples are layered over a pounding fabric of beats and bass lines that could fit in as the soundtrack to Snoop Dogg and Larry Flynt's recently announced porn/rap video venture.

Mixed by Consolidated co-founder Mark Pistel, The End of Meaning is richly textured, drawing on Consolidated's traditional repertoire of genres like industrial, breakbeat, and collage. But unlike Consolidated's previous work, almost half of the End of Meaning is dedicated to purely improvised cuts. With Sherburne on guitar and the Broun Fellinis' Kevin Carnes on drums, the two crank out a mix of bare-bones rock, with heavy looping meanderings that draw as much from blues as they do from hardcore.

The irony of selling a DIY album over the internet is not lost on Sherburne. But he doesn't see the web as a way to subvert the culture industry that he derides. "As far as being a pre-capitalist-artisian-trying-to-sell-his-own-ass.com, I still spend most of my time selling my CDs at shows and by word of mouth," says Sherburne. "I'd be content to live really small if I could sustain even the most marginalized non-profit project." When asked if Sherburne sees himself as a kind of subsistence entertainer, he simply nods and frowns." I'm not trying to be Fugazi or Rage. I'm just a fucking guy hustlin' his own shit on the sidewalk with an amp can and a clown suit on."

That seems to be the price Sherburne is willing to pay in order to be on the "outside" looking "in" on the culture industry with which he is so deeply at odds. But whether Sherburne's new album is on sale at Tower Records or on a street corner downtown, The End of Meaning should not to be missed by anyone who still likes their music to have a message.

Available at independent record stores or consolidatedmusic.org