Speaking of making the best of the hand that God or the universe or just overall randomness has dealt you, no list of top twenty records that most people probably haven’t heard would be complete without something dire and eviscerating from the Berlin outfit known as Einsturzende Neubauten. With Feurio (from 1989’s Haus Der Luge) getting the nod here because it is 1989, the year The Wall came down, the year everything finally gave. Not that the Einsturzende crew knew what was coming while they were recording the album. It was just heads down, eyes wide open industrial strength soul music, because when the enemy’s been at the gates your whole life, that’s what you do – you give everything, leave no energy un-realized, no noise un-made.
And nobody’s ever had enemies at their gates like everyday Berliners of the Cold War world (1945-1989). Hard not to be bleeding sparks from the friction of everyday life when you’re sandwiched between the world’s two great military powers, flexing their military and ideological bullshit for four and a half decades. So we get this fierce and timeless force of nature. Feurio translating as Fire— by pressure and body warmth / will our confusion become a nuclear fusion / and enormous / enormous / amounts of energy will be released. Which is exactly what it sounds like — the furious heat of souls that won’t bow down, that won’t submit to all the usual political economical bullshit. Or as Neil Young commented at around the same time. Keep On Rockin In The Free World, except Berlin was neither free nor un-free. It was the line between. Lest we forget.
Before they were OMD, they were Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, and better – cool young masters of dance floor ready girlfriend-left-me earworm pop of highest attainment. Except the Enola Gay in question here is not just some wayward girl who didn’t stay home, she’s the US air force bomber that dropped the BOMB on Hiroshima — history’s exclamation point, all of mankind’s progress and/or regress manifesting in a pivotal instant that (combined with what happened a few days later in Nagasaki) FORCED change, triggered apocalypse, immenatized the eschaton (and so on). It’s 8:15 in the AM, Japan time, August 6, 1945. Always has been, always will be. This is where we are. Nothing will ever be the same.
“Joan Baez had a big AM radio hit with this back in around 1972. Meanwhile, the cool FM DJs were playing the Band’s original version, which my teenybop ears didn’t really get. Too gritty, too raw. But jump ahead a few years to The Last Waltz (the movie of the Band’s big deal farewell concert) and yeah, I got it! The vast tragedy of the American South, what it is to lose a war and thus your culture, see it all burned before your eyes by the forces of Northern Aggression. Yeah, they owned slaves or certainly fought for those who did, but … I can’t think of a but for this. Slavery’s about as f***ed up as humanity gets. But there you go – where there’s humanity, there’s also soul, and thus complexity. Which is why we need songs like The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” (Philip Random)
“A Pogues song about London that isn’t actually a Pogues song or about London, but it might as well be. Because they certainly make it their own here and London’s a dump, encrusted in grime that’s centuries old. I recall a jetlagged morning, first light and I can’t sleep so I’m wandering Camden Lock and rather bemused by all the filth floating in the still water. It gets worse when I realize there’s a dead swan in the middle of one particularly disgusting looking clump. Later, I’m back at my friend’s flat having breakfast and I mention what I saw. He shrugs, pulls out the Pogues Rum Sodomy + the Lash and slaps it on.” (Philip Random)
“The release date of Berlin based Einsturzende Neubauten‘s fifth album Haus Der Luge was 4-September-1989, roughly two months before The Wall finally fell. So yes, all that rage and delirium you’re feeling, it’s the real thing, the house is indeed full of lies, the new buildings are all coming down, Neubauten being one of those bands who absolutely sounded like the history they were riding, the sum result of forty-odd years of two opposed worlds grinding up against each other, something/everything finally giving. Historians now seem to give Ronald Reagan the credit. F*** that sh**. It was Neubauten all the way. Music that dissolved concrete, melted barbed wire, changed everything forever.” (Philip Random)
“Al Stewart was a respected albeit minor British folkie on his way to becoming a rather bland MOR contender when he wrote this pocket symphony about a young Russian soldier in World War Two, and his ultimate betrayal at the hands of the Great Stalin. And it’s so beautiful, so epic, so sad it pretty much stops time. Seriously. They should teach Roads To Moscow in high school. I’m sure I learned more from its eight minutes than I did in pretty much all History 10.” (Philip Random)