POP Einsturzende Neubaten Astoria, London - Arts and Entertainment - The Independent

POP Einsturzende Neubaten Astoria, London

Einsturzende Neubauten's singer and instigator Blixa Bargeld once wanted to extinguish music, to press at the borders of what music was till it evaporated, and he could start again. It was an obsessional project that suited the bleak, Berlin Wall-dominated landscape in which his band worked, and the instruments they used, industrial debris from chainsaws to hammers. In their early Eighties heyday, the mere thought of sitting through one of their concerts was terrifying, so extreme were their experiments. But the band's existence is more peripheral than ever these days, its one-time shocking newness surely obsolete. The people who still want them, even need them, the people who crowd this gig, would look obsolete themselves in any other context, lost tribes of post-punks and other audio refuseniks. Fortunately, Bargeld and his cohorts have not forgotten the manifesto they began with. This gig proves what their new album Ende Neu indicated: that their effort to destroy music is over, and that the new music they searched for is in their grasp.

The old tricks are still tried: beats are hammered on quivering sheet- metal, a pole is-hit till it rings like a bell. Machines suck and flash, objects spark and flame. But, for all the old volume and oppression of the sound, what seeps through most clearly are new tunes of extreme, unnatural beauty. "The Garden", from Ende Neu, is perhaps the most perfect, a sort of pastoral English ballad which chimes with synthesised life. Even brutally repetitive songs like "Was Ist Ist" pulse with urgency. Adding to the impression that the band are now pop in a way no one could have dreamed are the antics of its members: Bargeld theatrically draped on equipment, guitarist Alex Hacke giving Alan Rickman-like leers, sweating and posing like a delirious rock pig, as if this is his purest pleasure, and he wants it to be ours.

It's still the old sounds of innovation that set Neubauten apart. Being separated from their context, from the grey Eighties wastes which made them seem so modern, has, if anything, added to the oddness of their convictions. There's no smoothness to this show, nothing like dance music's technological embrace. The band still insist on making you see how their sounds are made, insist on their physicality, plucked and ripped from the stage's metal landscape. It's industrial music in a post-industrial world. Overriding everything, though, is a determination to squeeze a few more drops of delight from an experiment others thought had run its course. By the time they take their bows, Neubauten's mystique has gone for good. They look like an ageing rock band. A pretty good one.

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