Einstürzende Neubauten still have it. Of all the bands I obsessed over in my youth, Neubauten was the one I still had not seen live until this past Saturday. I was lucky enough to catch Skinny Puppy and Front 242 and Meat Beat Manifesto in their heyday. I caught Curve well after their prime, but still holding it down. I saw Pop Will Eat Itself just before they broke up and of course there was Ministry, Front Line Assembly, Consolidated, KMFDM, Godflesh, Dead Can Dance, Cocteau Twins, and so on and so on. But EN has been the elusive group that just honestly doesn't tour much over here, and never came close enough for me to catch them until now.


I hope that when I'm 40, I'm half as cool as these guys. I know I wasn't half as cool as the 22 year old Blixa Bargeld when I was 22 so hoping to be half as cool as he is when I'm 40 is still a stretch. But honestly, there aren't many people left that are older than me that are still doing things I like. Most of what's grabbing me musically now is done by relative kids, or contemporaries, or people of a similar age who are just now making a name. But EN goes way, way back. From the time I first started learning about this new subculture called 'industrial.' There were the RESearch books, the indie magazines like B-Side and the connections to this wonderful world of absurdity and revolution in DaDa. That stuff and EN in particular hit like a ton of bricks when I was an impressionable teenager. Luckily, Neubauten has only aged for the better. Their new material is such a direct descendant of the old, but it's more refined, more mature, and more varied. There's a time for banging wantonly on a trash can with a metal pipe because that's the fury of a voice trying to be heard. But once the voice has been heard, then what?


Einstürzende Neubauten seem to have the answer: you keep banging, but you stretch it out. You make the noise mean something, you counter-weight it with soft sounds, beautiful sounds, and careful composition. I remember being so enamoured with old EN songs whose lyrics would be a single word or set of syllables repeated over and over until they lost meaning. The directness of that idea was just right. Now, I'm equally in love with Blixa's esoteric poetry. He seems to be channelling the same basic source of truth that Bjork hits on occassion--absurd seeming non-sequiters that somehow seem absolutely like the most honest, true expressions you've ever heard. Combine that sense of wordcraft with ingenious and creative instrumentation and you have a live show that is really unparalleled.


I know Nicolas said that the group seemed uninspired at a recent show in Germany, but they were anything but here. Blixa Bargeld is happily playing a new(ish) role onstage, that of the anarchistic elder statesman. He has an aire about him that is aloof and detached but he is at the same time very focused in what he's doing. I loved it. The deadpan humor between songs, the cocked head that looked dismissive of everything other than the moment the band was in--it was all perfect. Watching N.U. Unruh run around onstage like a mad scientist was awesome. He spent one song holding up a thin emergency blanket that wasn't directly mic'd so it was impossibly quiet, but the fact that he held it up over his head for the good 5-6 minutes of the song knowing that it was adding very little sonically to the otherwise boisterous mix--it was like a statement of dedication to expression that I found inspiring. All of it was. We need more things like that.