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First, the original version. Officers are a little known band from the north east of the UK, who are being repped by the industry tastemakers that matter for their blending of industrial and gothic undertones, warped into foreboding masterpieces of menace. Gary Numan is a massive fan of this band and took the lads on tour with him for his Machine Music tour in 2012, and one of the results of this came about in the form of Petals, a collaboration in aid of CALM, to promote and support this government charity for preventing suicides in the 18-35 year old age group. For such a cause, it makes sense for it to be taken seriously, and serious it is. It is staggeringly dark. The minimalist approach to this in a fairly simple programmed beat that booms and echoes, predatory synths that linger in shadow and a subtle guitar touch that sustains tension throughout by sawing away at the ropes holding it all together. The lyrics too are incredibly well written, among the best I have heard in quite some time. In fact, you could have this acapella and it would still maintain the unforgettable inhuman quality of Gary Numan’s now ageing monotone mantras. You feel it would take off into a memorable hook that Gary Numan is famous for, but it never truly explodes, just in bursts of contained madness in more angular, jarring synths layered on top of an already uncomfortable listening experience. Gary Numan in an interview stated this is his favourite collaboration he has ever done. It may very well be one of the best things he has ever done full stop. Haunting may be correct, but this poignant artifact is so evocative, it’s close to terrifying. Judge for yourself.
Onto the remix by supergroup Losers then. Formed of Eddie Temple-Morris, Paul Mullen (of The Automatic/Young Legionnaire) and Tom Bellamy (of The Cooper Temple Clause), this trio took that foreboding atmosphere of the original, cranked the bombast on it and dragged it to a new height of impending doom. Synths are somewhat brighter in this version, and there is a modular throb reminiscent of dubstep in the verses, but the main body of the song remains in a grey menacing hue, with beats still firmly programmed yet maintaining a strangely humanesque manner, unsettling for a band without a drummer. This comes close to being the soundtrack of your nightmares, so much so if a budding horror director hasn’t picked up this song for a project, it would seem like a terrible waste of the talent these gentlemen truly have. How anyone can fill four and a half minutes with this much pure dread, evil intent and sheer terror is utterly astonishing.
The final version then by a Mr. Ade Fenton, an industrial producer and composer, not to mention the manager of Gary Numan. That industrial streak comes to more fruition in this version, with fog vents blasted in from the get-go, multiple processed beats surrounding the listener and synths even more bombastic and petrifying than before. Where the previous incarnations played on the ambience of the track, this almost sounds like it could take to the dancefloors, raising a robot army to speed up the apocalypse. That furious sawtooth synth that enters at the hook offers shades of Nine Inch Nails, but it is very much its own beast, so fine-tuned and so intense you can’t help but tremble a little at the absolute power behind its volume. Again, this remix holds the key elements of the original in tact, but makes that feeling of helplessness and unease into a metallic insurrection, an S&M dungeon or a disco for the twisted and sadistic. Again, simply incredible.
There is in fact a fourth version by Jagz Kooner, but other than fulfilling the dancefloor potential of the song that it secretly oozes, it just doesn’t feel as lovingly crafted as these three versions do. By all means look it up, but for me, the integral parts of the original track are just lost in his version. It doesn’t quite work as well as these do.