Album: The Jewels
Mr. Bargeld? Sir? You are hereby instructed to START fuckin' SCREAMING again before we, your fans, give you a REASON to. And it will HURT ( just kidding on all fronts, you kick my ass). But all the same, dude, are there not enough Leonard-Cohen wannabes out there? You, yourself played in a band with the BEST one out there ( Nick Cave, anyone? ), but you, sir, are NOT here to IMITATE anyone ELSE. You were the beginning of a whole TRADITION, goddamnit. Your SINGING is not what distinguishes you. You make sounds that shatter windows with that throat. Did you get hit with laryngitis or something? Come on, man!
It bugs the shit outta me when the best screamers and growlers out there become non-stop crooners and droners. I mean, don't get me wrong, Blixa has one of the best voices out there, and his subtler moments- the whispers, the spoken passages, the rants... are every bit the trademark as his signature shrieks, snarls and squeals, almost none of which are present here. His sung and spoken verses have a quality like a brass instrument that has seen much drunken abuse. Put any other vocalist in front of Neubauten, and that bullshit just sounds like the fucking Blue Man Group.
The voice is still distinctly Blixa, and this is still no doubt the same band I have obsessed over for almost half a lifetime. This album is pretty much a winner for me, as was last year's "Alles Wieder Offen", but the former, like the latter, is definitely pop for a band that once literally set clubs on fire. For me to say this band has lost any integrity whatsoever is to lose sight of how deep their legacy reaches, and the way they have retained their aesthetic vision. They were one of the first and remain one of the best. Einsturzende can do no wrong by me. Well... maybe not entirely...
I got this one as a download, but the cover image is an x-ray of a snake. Against a white backround. It looks like the snake was green. Woop-DEEEeeeeeee...
'Ich Komme Davon' opens it up like an industrial 'Yellow Submarine', albeit a simplistic, subtler one. It fits as a beginning to the excerpted dream diary Bargeld is reading to us from. The air-compressor sounds and digital effects they have become so enamored with the last five albums are all up front on this track. 'Mei Ro' is two minutes of sound collage, with lots of water sounds that make me wanna run off and pee... um excuse me a minute. '26 Riesen' is three and a half minutes of pulsing noises and metal scrapes that would make you think the C.D. was skipping if not for Blixa occasionally saying something (oh, and the fact it's a fucking MP3). It ends with some pretty cool metal bashing though, so stick around maybe for that. 'Hawcubite' starts with what sounds like the opening noise to 'Feurio' off of "Haus Der Luge". It's a brief, one-minute short with lots of rattling xylophone sounds. Pretty cool. 'Die Liebellen' is another, similar short, with some very bent sounds getting beaten out of those homemade instruments and found objects. "Jeder Satz Mit Ihr Hallt Nach" goes from a slow, airy drone at the beginning to a subtler rhythm accompanied by reed organ and back out into the familiar but heavily processed sound of rain that ends with the noise increasing in pitch as it disappears. "Epharisto" Starts with a quiet vocal chorus leading into a calm guitar progression with didgeridoo-type sounds and convulsing rattles fighting to disrupt the peace in the background. 'Robert Fuzzo' features the tapping of a plastic or wooden type object with squeals that sound very micro-korg-y overtop and Blixa whispering a spoken word piece. The constant tappy thingy gets really annoying really fucking fast. I skip over this one. ' Magyar Energia ' has an awesome build from distant clanking and clicking becoming more layered and varied and molested with all these new digital toys they seem to have amassed. 'Vicky' uses noises as a narrative vehicle as Blixa recalls his awkward dream of a run-in with an ex. Marimbas and stabs of heavily treated metal percrussion carry 'Ansonsten Dostojewsky's' one-note guitar riff over Blixa's calmly sung vocal. 'Die Ebenen' is like a diet version of 'Headcleaner', fewer extremes, low-artsy-fartsy content, and 100% squeal free (until we get to the end, at least). It is still high in experimentalism, with lots of intricate, small details distracting from the one-note pulse and minimal, monotonous rhythm. It builds in intensity and gets a little screamy, then goes silent, leading into a crawling, creaking, dismantled remnant that rebuilds and returns to the main chorus up to the epic finish. This is followed by three minutes of boring artfuckery titled "Am I Only Jesus", which consists of minimal metal percussion, an uninspired riff, and some dodgy spoken word, punctuated with a cringe-inducing chorus of the song title. Hearing Bargeld sing "Am I only Jesus" OVER and OVER through these precious three-and-a-half breathing minutes he has robbed you of will make you want to SLAP the BE-JESUS out of him while berating him with the question of whether or not he SEES JESUS yet. Being an ignorant Westerner, and having not the faintest clue what the fuck a word like 'Bleib' means, I can merely assume it means chasing back a valium with cough syrup and falling asleep on a violin while your fridge hums and your dryer goes off in the basement. In other words, I don't know what this 'Bleib' shit is, but I can totally relate. It almost makes up for that goddamn Jesus song. Calms me down a little. But NEW RULE: NO MORE SINGING ABOUT JESUS. I am quite sure that Jesus himself is even more sick of it than I am, if he exists. I mean, imagine being up on some goddamn cloud in heaven or some shit for TWO_THOUSAND-EIGHT YEARS, while the whole sisterfuckin' world sings your name, and then to top it off there's this whiny little kraut fucker for the cherry on that whole shit parfait? My merciful ass would be raining thunderbolts at that point, is all I'm saying. Our next little ditty, "I Kissed Glen Gould" is a mashup of noises as Blixa describes his wet dream of slipping the tongue to the eccentric, mildly spastic and brilliant Canadian pianist (well, maybe not the tongue, but a man can have his fantasies, now can't he?).
One shortcoming of the record label's near-fade into obsolesence is the way self-publication equals self-indulgence. Without the fascistic outer ear of a label dickhead dictating to you what people want to hear, you can pick and choose what you keep and omit from a recording, without anyone at press time to tell you if it sucks or not. Neubauten, no longer fully committed to Mute, are entirely self-producing a good deal of their output and making information about performances and releases increasingly more exclusive to their internet fanbase. I think the ethics of all this gets pretty dodgy, especially being a lifelong fan who hates fan sites in general. But no less, the work doesn't suffer too bad in light of being yet another new experiment in self-marketing. They are effective at doing things on their own terms, so they can do what they want.
Artistic Merit: 7 (generous)
Pretentious moments like that above-mentioned 'Jesus' abortion kind of make this album blow, and their new direction shows signs of getting a little- no, make that waaaaay too fuckin' soft for my tastes. I do not only listen to heavy, dark, extreme, blah, blah, whatever-type-music, but I don't like hearing bands that once actually SCARED me singing a fucking sermon. It's even more annoying if it's for ironic or tongue-in-cheek value. Other than that, I'm still a proud Neubauten fan. I listen to most of this album with enduring respect enough to make fun of it without entirely dismissing it. This STILL had better not be some limp-wristed assertion he's found god or something, for Christ's sake.
I actually don't know whether to say I think it has good continuity or that it merely sounds the same from song to song, therefore, I choose the latter. That Christly interruption sure as fuck didn't help much. It's not a bad album, and has a consistent sound throughout, but certain screaming nuances of the whole picture break up the structure to an otherwise very well-crafted work of art.
I think I have finally figured out my LEAST favorite Neubauten album. I worship this act, and have utmost respect for the sonic journey they embarked on almost thirty years ago, from beginning to present day. It is not a bad album, and I listen to it all the way through with the Jesus song checked off the list, but it sounds almost like they are trying to mine some bullshit adult-contemporary grey area that doesn't exist.