Record Review: Nitzer Ebb – Shame

Mute | GER | CD5 | 1989 | INT 826.909

Mute | GER | CD5 | 1989 | INT 826.909

Nitzer Ebb: Shame GER CD5 [1989]

  1. Shame [Mix no. 1]
  2. Captivate [Mix no. 6]
  3. Backlash [Mix no. 4]

I first heard Essex EBM monsters Nitzer Ebb as I did much music in the 1980s; on the airwaves of MTV. A portion of their clip for “Murderous” from the album “That Total Age” snuck on to “120 Minutes” and I was primed for more. I wasted little time in buying the UK CD of that album [at Vinyl Fever in Tampa, if memory serves] far in advance of any copies on Geffen, their US label. I was gladdened at the time that someone had remembered DAF! I was shocked to find out that the band were not in fact, German but actually British with Germanic aspirations – even better! That album was a hard-edged minimal electro attack on the senses, but subsequent albums showed the band flexing their growth muscles in a way that kept the essential hardness of their sound while making it more complex and hook-laden.

I was a big fan of their second album, “Belief” and found it to be a bright spot in the UK mid-late 80s scene. Among the burgeoning dance floor industrial bands, I really appreciated how Douglas McCarthy sang the songs without resorting to effects. Not one of the Ogre Music* persuasion of singers using a distortion pedal for presence in their dark, little fantasies. In that way, he was in the same caliber as Steven Mallinder of Cabaret Voltaire as an urban blues practitioner in an electro-industrial setting. By this time, I was absorbing all of their singles on CD format that passed into my orbit.  UK, German and even US promo delights sit in the Record Cell. The third single from “Belief” was “Shame,” which on CD5, paradoxically had just the short 3:22 radio mix of the A-side. More time would be lavished on the B-sides on CD5 format.

The Flood remix of “Shame” brought added crisp, focus to the cut while goosing its rhythm and shaving about a half minute off of it; making it more “radio friendly.” I enjoy the rhythmic complexity of the single mix and one day I really must get the 12″ singles of this on vinyl to finally hear the extended remixes that I missed back in the day as they were not issued on CD.

As good as “Shame” was, it was on the B-sides that this particular single really went places that made me glad to have bought it! The “Captivate” remix took an LP track from “Belief” and gave it to the capable hands of William Orbit; certainly one of my favorite remixers of all time to do that voodoo that he did so well. The clean minimalism of the LP track was certainly enhanced on this mix with Orbit making sure that every few bars the sound and effects he used mutated and expanded the track, while retaining the vibe. The extended final third of the song proffered a deliciously serpentine rhythm bed as the dubbed out sounds had singer Douglas McCarthy looping lyrics until the final fade.

It was on the non-LP B-side that this single really delivered the goods. “Backlash,” in the hands of Orbit, became a cyber-distressed, proto-glitch harbinger of decades still to come in electronic pop. The squirting, acidic synths and dubbed out vocals and synth hooks made this track as good as any prime Cabaret Voltaire, which, considering the state of that band in 1988 [hint: not good!] meant that this single really delivered the goods for this young lad! When the song drops to highlight the monolithic beat at the song’s mid-point, it recalls the hint of “Sensoria” in what I expect is a cheeky homage from Orbit. The dub breakdown at the song’s end could go on for another four minutes at least, in my opinion. I really need to wrap up all of the vinyl-only Ebb remixes and cuts into the Record Cell for that definitive BSOG® of EBM goodness that one day I know I will have to make. Singles like this one have not ebbed one iota in my estimation while many things I was buying at the time are chaff in the wind to me now.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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