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.
“It’s true. The mind is a terrible thing to taste. All those lysergic juices, leaking down from your brain to the back of your mouth when all that acid you put in your veins gets to bubbling over. Actually, I was in total control the whole time, Lollapalooza, 1992, the biggest mosh pit I’ve ever encountered, the dark gods of Ministry reigning supreme in their ridiculous over-sized hats. Which is key. Despite all the menace, there was something genuinely fun about Ministry live. Although there was that moment toward the end of their set when they were slaying all with Stigmata (and officially seizing the day from the likes of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, The Jesus + Mary Chain, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers) — I turned for a moment from the stage, looked back through the multitude, the thousands upon thousands of spent and wasted young faces illustrating the key lyric all too well: The only truth I know Is the look in your eyes. Did I mention it was pouring rain that day? The rain just kept a-falling.” (Philip Random)
“They did this at Expo 86. A free show at the infamous Xerox Theatre. It was June sometime, or maybe July. I remember it was raining. I remember the NOISE erupting out into the plaza, like a palpable monster. I remember two little girls crying, their mother in a rage. ‘Music like that does things to people.’ But her rage was impotent. Einsturzende Neubauten just kept raging, even setting the stage on fire toward the end, oil rags carelessly tossed, fire extinguishers hustled to the scene. This wasn’t staged. I remember thinking, yes, this is true heavy metal because they’re actually hitting, grinding, hammering chunks of metal. I remember a bomb going off on the McBarge (the world’s first floating McDonald’s) or maybe it was just a grease fire gone horribly wrong. I remember watching it sink into False Creek, no survivors, just blood and oil fouling the water, drawing hundreds maybe thousands of sharks. But the concert carried on. The cops were afraid to stop it. Eventually, the military was called in. Actually, that last part was probably the acid.” (Philip Random)
In which Severed Heads remind us that there’s joy in repetition, or maybe just madness; and truth in the notion that many of the so-called Industrial artists of the 1980s only got worse as they got better at figuring out their instruments and related technology, got to sounding more and more like normal musicians. In Severed Heads case, that means they’d peaked long before I ever heard them via any number of cassette only releases. But fortunately, that truth eventually found me via Clifford Darling, Please Don’t Live In The Past, a double vinyl compilation full of delightfully strange and, if needs be, antagonistic excursions. Alaskan Polar Bear Heater seems to concern a cocktail.
The Executive Slacks being one of those mostly forgotten yet essential industrial grade outfits who did their bit for the greater evolution of all mankind in the mid-1980s. The Bus being a wonderfully uptight little ditty about the horrors of crowded public transit.
The so-called sound art project known as Nocturnal Emissions take a few bland self-help samples, lay down a simple groove and deliver an anthem of sorts on the theme of healing. Because by the time 1985 hit, everyone who had even half a brain knew we were all in serious shit as regards the long term survival of the species. And then there was that big disease with a little name (as Prince put it). We all knew someone who had it, even if we didn’t actually know they had it yet. Such was the AIDS crisis of the mid-80s — a death sentence all the way. And yet we’re human, so we never give up. Some of us anyway.