y now, hopefully, no one expects industrial (not Wax Trax! goth industrial, mind you) legends Einstürzende Neubaten to sound like they used to. You can only destroy new buildings for so long before there aren’t any left, except maybe your home. Of course, the new direction (their last album was called Silence Is Sexy, fer chrissakes) isn’t exactly sweetness and light; more than once I’ve seen it compared to the difference between mass and serial murder.
Take the opener here, the brief and rhythmic ‘Ich Gehe Jetzt’ (“I’m going now”, according to the liner notes), a song of renunciation and retreat, set to chopped strings and muted drum hits. It’s very quiet, down to the handclaps, and Blixa Bargeld doesn’t raise his voice above conversational level but it still sounds like you wouldn’t want to meet him in a well-lit alley. Maybe it’s just that he’s singing in German, which, for all its virtues, is well suited to menace that unnerves me?
Most of Perpetuum Mobile sticks to this pattern, even the one track in English (‘Youme & Meyou’, and yep, Bargeld sounds less sinister and more weary there), but the exceptions are very noticeable. The thirteen minute long title track moves from loud to quiet and back again repeatedly, forming a precise aural portrait of humanity viewed as luggage, whirled through baggage claims and tossed into cargo holds. Which is exactly what its lyrics are concerned with, culminating in a section where Bargeld pretends to be an airport security guard’s worst nightmare (“Yes, this case was sometimes left unsupervised / Yes, others had access to it / Yes, I was asked to carry presents”, etc). There’s also the vaguely tribal (at least in climax) ‘Ein Seltener Vogel’; as with many tracks here, quiet or loud, there are odd bits of sound sticking out of the seams of the song in a not-unpleasant fashion, until finally the whole thing evolves into a call and response finale.
It’s good to see a band as creative and restless as Einstürzende Neubaten can still whip up some good songs, and the good bits of Perpetuum Mobile rank highly in their work; edited down to around eight songs this would be a near-essential example of their latter-day style. Sadly, at 66 minutes, too many similar mid-length songs (‘Paradiesseits’ and ‘Ein Leichtes Leises Sauseln’ certainly sound different, but damned if I can identify them without the tracklisting) and one completely uninspiring instrumental (‘Ozean Und Brandung’), Perpetuum Mobile doesn’t attain those heights.
Reviewed by: Ian Mathers
Reviewed on: 2004-02-20