POP Einsturzende Neubaten Astoria, London
Nick Hasted has been a film journalist since 1986. He writes about film, music, books and comics for The Independent, Sight & Sound, Uncut and Little White Lies. He has published two books: The Dark Story of Eminem (2002), and You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks (2011), both from Omnibus Press.
Thursday 11 September 1997
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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