Einstürzende Neubauten

Live At Rockpalast 1990

BY Ralph ElawaniPublished Feb 21, 2013

"Collapsing New Buildings" hardly ever dipped in relevance, regardless of the context they performed in. Whether horrifying U2's picnic audience in Rotterdam or scoring Heiner Müller's play, Die Hamletmaschine, Neubauten always found ways to evolve without embracing the absurdity of the cybergoth, industrial crowd, constantly living up to one motto: "listen with pain." This CD/DVD (which comes with liner notes by Ecki Stieg) captures the band at a pivotal point in their career, almost exactly a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall, as the quintet perform a 16-song set of caustic numbers mostly from Fünf auf der nach oben offenen Richterskala, Halber Mensch and Haus der Lüge. The man-machine get under way with a shrewd rendition of "Prolog/Furio," proving that their taste for chaos and apollonian industrial wreckage is indeed the sonic embodiment of Walter Benjamin's definition of the destructive character often cited by founder Blixa Bargeld: "the destructive character knows only one watchword: make room. And one activity: clearing away." Originally airing on a German music television show that broadcasted everything from Jimmy Cliff to Joe Bonamassa, Live At Rockpalast 1990 is a compelling document that puts front and center a group clever enough to adapt any landscape to the ever-gestating monster of their sound. Other dystopian tracks from Neubauten's back catalogue are revisited, as Bargeld, Chung, Hacke, Unruh and Einheit stretch the limits of sound and grammar on "Yu Güng," "Ich Bin's" and Lee Hazlewood ballad "Sand" without overemphasizing the sophistication of their chemistry — an aspect that ironically did them in, as their perusal of the digital world partially caused Chung and Einheit to leave the band during the mid-'90s. While very few people at that time would have put their money on the idea that Blixa Bargeld would someday be cooking squid risotto on TV with Alfred Biolek, this concert demonstrates a mature band shifting from harsh metal grinding and leather pants to more digestible and concrete songwriting (and sartorial tastes). Far from feeling obliged to wander down the clogged highways of professional populism by feeding off applause and torrential sing-alongs, the band have little to no interaction with the crowd. Yet, in parallel fashion to the liberating frequencies of acts like the Nihilist Spasm Band and Le Quatuor de Jazz Libre du Québec, the idea is that hitting an oil tank with the right crowbar is one million times more efficient on a level of personal liberation than having Bono cover the Skids for topical purposes.

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