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Add N to (X)

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Anarchists armed—or, rather, conjoined—with keyboards instead of assault rifles, the members of Add N to (X) have been serving the futurist revolution since their 1996 long-playing debut, Vero Electronics. The group didn’t really hit its stride, however, until two years later, with the release of a brilliant sophomore effort, On the Wires of Our Nerves. That disc was a blistering sonic manifesto that came complete with propagandist cover art depicting band member Ann Shenton giving birth, by Caesarian section, to a synthesizer. In those days, Add N to (X) were not men (and a woman)—they were Devo for the ’90s. But, to judge from the new Add Insult to Injury, the revolution has been cauterized, and the group has morphed a little too easily into a collective of bourgeois aesthetes. Leaving aural agitprop behind, Add N to (X) luxuriates instead in the gurgling comfort of vintage Moogs and Hammond C-3s. And the sound is seriously seductive. “Brothel Charge” is a techno-hedonist’s fight song, all throbbing spy-theme rhythm and liquid synth squiggles. And on “B.P. Perino,” theremin pro Steve Claydon fires up the Electro Harmonix and Korg Micro Preset to create a sound befitting a group that once recorded a song called “Metal Fingers in My Body.” But Best of Disc honors go to “Monster Bobby,” a mock military anthem that, in great Phildickian fashion, commingles the band members’ voices with robotic ones and leaves you to puzzle over which sound more human. —Shannon Zimmerman