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NITZER EBB - Body Of Work   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Tuesday, 13 June 2006
"..the audio equivalent of the end of a Peckinpah movie, a violent assault on the senses, a miasma of plasma, machinery, and aural carnage..."

 

Nitzer Ebb never Made It. They came close many times, but they were always slightly too abrasive, too spiky, to dent the charts. And to play music that heavy without guitars was practically suicide to those of closed minds.

 

Body Of Work” – a 2disc retrospective spanning 1985-1995 – sees their 19 non-hit singles lined up in chronological order and backed with a second disc of remixes. From the violent assault of ‘Let Your Body learn’ to the final, almost sensuous ‘I Thought’, all it proves really is that The Ebb were always just not quite obvious enough to dominate the charts : the relentless barrage of shrapnel-like percussion, punctuated by short vocal orders - whilst massively influential and effectively shaped the early work of better known names like Derrick May, and Trent Reznor – is certainly by no means chart-friendly. Or friendly at all. In a moment almost beyond parody “Join In The Chant” relies on a humourless hymn of “Lies! Fire! Gold! Guns!Church! Muscle! And Hate!”, which sounds like po-faced Chelmsford Marilyn Manson covers act.

 

Later material manged to become slightly more complex, including things like verses and choruses and even melody. Choice cuts from their biggest CD “EbbHead” sees songs you can almost hum along to in ‘Ascend’ and the still-thrilling string-laden epic ‘I Give To You’. A three and a half year sabattical from the studio – and the rise of Britpop – effectively castrated their career in indecision. Ten years later, “Body of Work” still sounds wonderfully alien, as if made from an alternate universe where pop sounds violent and a little bit scary. But by no means does resemble anything even vaguely like ‘An Introduction To..’ : “Body of Work” is the audio equivalent of the end of a Sam Peckinpah, a violent assault on the senses, a miasma of plasma, machinery, and aural carnage.

 

It’s no wonder they never got their Big Hit. At the time, their videos made about two minutes of screen time every six months on ‘The Chart Show’, and their singles always sat in the bargain bin of Hobdays, my local independent record shop. Despite numerous chances - they supported Depeche Mode, they were on Mute, they sounded like a spiky cross between Nine Inch Nails and KraftwerkThe Ebb never quite managed to be anything other than idiosyncratically visercal.

 

And then, in 1995, after ten years of minor notoriety and small sales, they split to no fanfare during the height of Britpop. Whilst the world was caught up in no mark scum like Menswear and Powder, they quietly fell to pieces. Like an EBM version of The Pixies, their legacy was a small number of albums, and the knowledge that everyone who had heard them formed a band.

 

Whilst it’s impossible that “Body Of Work” will resuscitate interest in them, or give them the wide appeal that eluded them during their lifespan, it also provides a tidy and effective history lesson to those who like to explore the far reaches of music : the pioneers who shaped the sound of Detroit’s electronic music and underground dance music the world over were listening to stuff like this. And it still sounds contemporary now.

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