How do you really try to understand the newest release by a band that’s been around for 40 years, gone through a radical shift in their sound, but not in their approach to making music? To me, nothing tops the early output of the band, but as a somewhat middle-aged punk, I can get behind music that isn’t full on 100 miles an hour cars on a highway, but the last LP, Lament, was very traditional sounding, and didn’t resonate with me. Now, with that said, viewing this new album from a purely post-punk angle, and turning off my knowledge of their past innovation and sound, I have to suggest that Blixa Bargeld has gone from master of the inward scream to a modern new world crooner, inhabiting a space somewhere between Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave.
I think the leadoff track, Ten Grand Goldie, is better than anything that was on Lament, so that’s a good start to an album. In fact within that one song, you get some of the tropes that Einsturzende Neubauten are known for: the inward scream, clattering rhythms, basslines that weave beneath the surface; but there’s some new elements as well: a looping sample and some horns. From there, it seems the band weaves from trying to reinvent traditional folk songs, to abusing pop song structures; making them bend to the band’s will. I will say that I believe that the traditional folk song style of songs that are on this album are just less successful and less interesting – they could’ve been done by any band. Which robs Einsturzende Neubauten of what makes them special – fans of their early music will want that industrial giant clatter. I find myself challenged by the sequencing of the record – starting at such a high level with Ten Grand Goldie and never really ascending again to that height. While I’m not disappointed, it seems that there’s a start, but no follow up and bringing that tempo back, which leaves an album that wallows a bit. Even the abrasive 1 minute within Zivilisatorisches Missgeschick, which oscillates between noise and volume punishment and subtle soundtrack arrangements really don’t bring the same kind of tempo that might’ve made some sense. Seven Screws builds a crescendo that goes nowhere, but I can’t say it’s a convincing crescendo, it’s almost as if the previous five songs clued me into that it was going to go nowhere. Following up that crescendo with the Leonard Cohen-esque Alles In Allem, is like walking up a staircase, opening a door and discovering you’re at the bottom of the staircase again.
This album feels like a carefully crafted expression of love. Love that starts with lust, white hot and intense, like Ten Grand Goldie, and then love that lasts; sometimes trudging, sometimes mundane. Ironically the second to last song on the album is Wedding, where people often joke that is where love goes to die. Of course, we all know that love doesn’t have to die at a wedding, and can flourish…
This is music that is a soundtrack, but it’s not one that I want to revisit. Much like a soundtrack, I’ll still go see the band, but to see the spectacle, not necessarily to revel in most of these songs which wouldn’t be out of place as background music at a polite party for upscale artsy folks.