"Industrial Complex" (Album, 2010)
It may have taken 15 years, but a new Nitzer Ebb album we finally have. Even just a couple of years back the idea that we'd ever get to see new material from the EBM legends was pure fantasy as founding members Douglas McCarthy and Bon Harris repeatedly sent clear messages it wasn't happening. They'd long ago gone their separate ways, did their own thing and the increasingly desperate remix releases continued apace in a futile attempt to fill the new creativity void. So, reasonable enough to state then that there were probably inordinately unreasonable levels of expectation as soon as a new album was announced.
The major feat that NE had to pull off (in the eyes of their legion of followers) in releasing any new material was to straddle quite a broad stylistic range from the hard, minimalist, EBM they became scene leaders of many years ago through to the more complex and introspective writing found on what appeared to be their last (and least popular) album 1995's Big Hit and yet, somehow (and probably quite miraculously), satisfy all of them. A theoretical and largely unrealistic challenge. All the more astonishing then that, by some feat of mercurial magic, that's precisely what they've pulled off. Fronted by probably McCarthy's best vocal work in his entire career, this really is about as good a return as anyone could reasonably have hoped for.
Industrial Complex is an accomplished combination of old school four-to-the-floor drums, triggering bass synth lines and chanting chorus lyrics of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the more intricate and thoughtful mid-tempo songs like Hit You Back (which could easily be a Big Hit outtake), through to the standout piece, the reflective and moving ballad of Going Away. The single most impressive thing however is that McCarthy, Harris and percussionist Jason Payne have achieved this without the album sounding like a fragmented collection of disparate pieces. Like a lot of mature acts who once threw in the towel, when the time did feel right for them to return, they did so for all the right reasons, with nothing to prove, and passion being the single biggest driver. The results speak for themselves. 8/10
Rob Dyer (March 2010)
"Big Hit" (Album, 1995) !DSO Recommended!
Controversial as it will undoubtedly be (bring on the hate mail!) but as far as I'm concerned, this album released as both Nitzer Ebb themselves and their following was waning, whilst their label Mute was irrevocably diluting its distinctive essence releasing all kind of bollocks, is the band's best long player. It's a production tour de force, intricate and clever but never seeking attention for being so.
Early albums That Total Age (1987) and Belief (1989) are seen by most as the definitive period and works. And I wouldn't challenge either of those assertions. But they are also limited in their achievements, constraining themselves to a format adapted by Nitzer Ebb from the likes of Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft and cleverly made their own, so much so, in fact, that younger fans came to the NE sound believing our Essex boys had created it all from scratch.
However, a genuinely good album cannot be restrained by its age. That Total Age and Belief are both hampered by this and for me don't manage to transcend their incredibly dated sound. Big Hit is the only Nitzer Ebb album that I still play on a regular basis. It's smart and exciting songwriting and it's unjust that this bombed on release. It's also a shame that the band themselves have (ironically) effectively consigned the album to history focusing on all the releases before Big Hit whenever they play live today. Unless the band themselves genuinely dislike every track on the album (hard to believe) this then also creates a sense of a band merely going through the motions, only ever playing old hits and never moving forward.
That would be a sad end to a once thrilling career. If I am to recommend a Nitzer Ebb album as the best one to own then Big Hit still gets my vote over their more iconic and trademark early material any day. 8/10
Rob Dyer (August 2009)