Einstürzende Neubauten: Lament

The German experimentalists have never shied away from ambitious projects, but is this a case of too many ideas and not enough music?

- To quote the opening sentence from the liner notes of the new Einsturzende Neubauten full length Lament. "The album version of LAMENT should be heard as a studio reconstruction of a work primarily designed to be performed live rather than an official Einsturzende Neubauten LP proper."

It is pretty clear that Einsturzende Neubauten are trying to be ambitious with their new project and ambitious they are. The album itself is essentially a concept piece which circles around Blixa Bargeld's notions that the First World War never ended and that the times there hasn't been war have just been breathers. Accompanying this record is quite an in depth collection of notes that're worth reading, for the insight they offer into the record. However, I will be reviewing the record on its music merits rather than delving too much into the politics.

Things start with Kriegsmaschinerie which is a rather chilling piece to open with, an echo of the bands louder times. Then Hymen follows, bombastiacally: this anthem like song is obviously trying to stand out -and it does- but it does feel a little silly coming from Neubauten, not to mention that the production is lackluster, the fidelity completely at odds with the opening track. Speaking of faults, The Willy - Nicky Telegrams, yeah Blixa Bargeld singing through autotune, is as stupid as it sounds.

The thing about this record is that lacks the level of cohesion that Neubauten have achieved with past records: be it from the more experimental early period or the later more accessible material. This may be designed as a live piece but it's difficult to imagine the diffuse stylistic approach would work in that context either. It feels a bit like the construction of Pink Floyd's The Wall but lost a bit too much in its own ideas. There are some which are so out of character they could arguably have been cut altogether: tracks like On Patrol Out in No Man's Land could be Neubauten covering Melvins' version of In the Army Now.

Amongst the strangeness, there are moments which are rock solid on here, concentrated in the latter half of the record and reviving the sense of anticipation engendered by that first track. Achterland is a deep, spaced-out track that features Bargeld doing spoken word . It's immersive and terrifying, like it had been sucked straight out of a Japanese survival horror game. The three part Lament series is also a highlight, with part one being almost an ambient piece, part two Abwartsspirale being pure industrial and part three, Pater Pecavi, a desolate, totally post war time song which is almost a kraut copy of Floyd's Goodbye Cruel World with a bit of Godspeed mixed in.

As you listen to this record and in combination with the album's backstory it does become easier, in time, to accept the record's flaws, but it is hard to recommend it at this point in time as an essential Neubauten release: only diehard fans of post-2000 Neubauten will take much from this. Musically it falls short of its own conceptual aspirations, the grandeur it tries to display and people will -chances are- buy it because it is a Neubauten record and not because of Bargeld's poltiical invective being spewed out on a canvas. Sadly, without the right music this feels highly uneven: if you can't nail the Neubauten part, then nothing works.

- Bradley Armstrong.

Album Details

Album Title: Lament
Artist: Einstürzende Neubauten
Record Label: (Mute)