"I want to be anarchy," proclaimed Johnny Rotten, and 23 years later his Teutonic-techno disciples have achieved his goal: Atari Teenage Riot's "60 Second Wipe Out" is a chaotic welter of hyperdrive beats, squalling punk-guitar samples and shouted confrontational slogans. It's more likely to inspire a headache, however, than a revolution.
Even at its most hectoring, discourse requires a certain coherence, which the Riot achieved with much of 1997's "Burn, Berlin Burn!" But the assault of such new tracks as "Western Decay" and "Anarchy 999" is so haphazard that its most intelligible agenda derives from the drum machine. Two years ago, Atari founder Alec Empire said that he wanted the Berlin-based quartet's music to become "harder and more extreme," and "60 Second Wipe Out" is certainly that; such manic screeds as "Atari Teenage Riot II" fuse machine-age clatter and hormonal fury. In the process, though, the band's revolutionary message is frequently trampled by the rampaging din.
A title like "Avant Hard" suggests that Add N to X is similarly interested in digital and hardcore, but the sound of the British trio's third album is actually rather jaunty -- and almost entirely analog. In its exploration of the various bleeps, buzzes and whooshes that can be coaxed from obsolete electronic instruments, the band does uncover some harsh timbres, notably for the aptly named "Fyuz." Such racket, however, is usually put into the service of tracks like "Skills," which suggests a high-level conclave of Herb Alpert, Sam the Sham and -- inevitably -- Stereolab. (The latter band's Andy Ramsey sometimes plays drums for the group, as does Rob Allum of 'Lab partners the High Llamas.)
Unlike Stereolab, Add N to X doesn't generally bother with lyrics, although the group does dabble in the occasional lilting nonsense-syllable vocal. Band members Anne Shenton, Barry Smith and Steve Clayton may be former art students with a complicated conceptual framework for their music, but such bouncy tracks as "Barry 7's Contraption" and "Buckminster Fuller" owe more to the hit '70s and '80s synthpop of Kraftwerk and Human League than to electronic music that's either avant or hard.
Both appearing Sunday at the 9:30 club. To hear a free Sound Bite from Atari Teenage Riot, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8121. For a Sound Bite from Add N to X, press 8122. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)
CAPTION: Atari Teenage Riot strives for a harder sound on its most recent release.