How Did I Die?

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It’s Armistice day. Which is the perfect time to revisit this, Einsturzende Neubauten’s extraordinary ‘Lament’ commissioned to mark the centenary of the great war. If you need a break from non stop Leonard Cohen today or over the weekend this is a pretty high quality, only slightly incomplete film of a performance in Prague. As ‘Lament’ was conceived as a live performance rather than a recordng I found watching some the footage of it helped me get more from the album. There’s plenty of other performances there in a wide range of qualities if you go looking. Two years ago this was a striking way to mark a hundred years since the great war, to remember the suffering and insanity of the two wars that tore the continent apart in the past century and affirm the common sense sentiment ‘never again’. In our current moment, as the US have just elected a dangerously unpredictable new President, Putin does his grinning sabre dance and here in the UK we decide to turn our back on Europe, on an imperfect union that has nonetheless ensured the longest peace, it seems the spectres of war are once more stepping out from their bunker. In that atmosphere remembrance seems to be a less solemn and more urgent concern.

Neubauten have been on near constant rotation this month since they announced the release of a Greatest Hits collection (out Nov 25 – an ideal xmas gift for that hard to buy for relative). the one track included from Lament is ‘How Did I Die?’ Which is possibly the best song on the record and something of a distillation of its concerns. As always with such things it’s a potential magnet for fan outrage – no Headcleaner! I sputtered aghast – the first, metal banging phase of the band, their creation myth and ur text is ignored altogether, the earliest track is a new remix of Haus der Luge, included it seems because they could now afford a brass section they wanted at the time. ‘Total Eclipse Of The Sun’ is the only one of their singles included, not that they were ever a singles band, and it doesn’t split neatly at the departure of F.M. Einheit and Mark Chung either. But then why would it? A loosely assembled, home ripped version of the tracklist has been a pretty daily companion of late and it’s a brilliant selection, smartly programmed, whihc shines new light on the music it contains and reflected light on other stuff I’ve listened to again as a result. And then there’s the Musterhaus stuff, which I never knew about I don’t think. Deeply experimental recordings for subscribers to the project released in 2007 through their website. The last of these was called ‘Weingeister’ and is made of recordings of the band drinking wine. 2004 Moscato Giallo

 

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