Wednesday, March 16, 2005

E, I

Einsturzende Neubauten- Tabula Rasa

I can’t remember whether it was me or my pal Ben who bought Neubauten records first. I’m pretty sure that whoever it was made the plunge because Henry Rollins had the band’s logo tattooed on his arm.

Forefathers of industrial, a term that doesn’t get tossed around much any more. Initially, the terms referred to an arty post-punk sub-sect that utilized the detritus of urban living to create new sounds and textures- incorporating found objects into the sounds. So, playing sheets of metal, trashcans, chains, etc. Of course, the term quickly got bastardized and was applied to any music that was sinister and involved drum loops or heavy sounding guitars or both- KMFDM and Front 242 and Nine Inch Nails and Ministry and even Nitzer Ebb were all soon considered industrial bands. (All of the listed bands totally swiped the Neubauten dress code of being skinny and grubby and smoking too many cigarettes and wearing leather pants, too.)

Neubauten was always trying different stuff. I saw ‘em play once- they had a jet turbine suspended from the ceiling of the Paradise, which they spun and hit with drumsticks. Pretty cool.

‘Tabula Rasa’ was a later album- I admit to not keeping up with the band since. It’s way less concussive than some of the early stuff I remember listening to in Ben’s car, but still sounds pretty unorthodox and cool at times. Of course, the fact that most of the record is sung in German helps add to that unorthodoxy- the language is so guttural and sharp that it adds to the whole feeling.

Elliott- U.S. Songs

Pretty good. Never bought the buzz that these guys were like the messiahs or anything (although at the time the record came out they were probably the best band on a very weak Rev roster- lots of straightedge hardcore in early ’98.) Guitar rock that used some the same tricks as Split Lip (before they abandoned ‘the scene’ and went country/ became Chamberlain.) ‘Suitcase and Atoms’ is still catchy as hell, and ‘Alchemy As A Rhythm’ is downright anthemic. I’ve heard positive stuff about their later records, though I’m not sure I heard either of ‘em.

Embrace- s/t

A lot of Dischord stuff suffers from muddy production, making the label’s remaster/issue series a welcome one. As documented elsewhere, there’s always the chance/threat of buying a reissued album and being totally bamboozled by special bell and whistle ‘bonus features’ that don’t amount to a hill of shit. The Dischord folks do it right- there’s a little silver sticker on each CD noting the remastering, maybe a few bonus tracks here and there, but that’s it. No hype.

I’m not sure how much difference in sound the casual Embrace listener would
notice. No problem, as there aren’t many casual Embrace listeners to begin with- everyone I know who’s into the band is INTO the band, still knows all the words and chord changes. The old version of this album sounded fine, good enough to listen to umpteen million times, burning every word and note into my brain. The differences are subtleties, colors that I appreciate soooo much. I wouldn’t be surprised if the label’s underlying assumption is that all of the fans of whatever band is being remastered are fanatics, diehards with an ear discerning enough to pick up on the drums being pushed ever so slightly up in the mix, the guitar, whatever. It’s awesome.

So are the two alternate takes- ‘Money’ is slower than the proper version, with some ambitious attempts at backing vocal harmonies as well as slightly different, ad-libbed vocals that find Ian in full-on preacher mode. On ‘Dance of Days,’ Ian’s vocals have a different cadence than usual- his yelps sound a whole lot like his brother Alec’s work with the Warmers. The alternate ‘Dance’ is way more pissed, too, than the album version, especially the bit that goes “We’d better/slow down!/Slow down!/Slow down!/Now!” the alternate take sounds more like “We’d better/slow doooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwn!”

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