Einstürzende Neubauten isn’t always the easiest band to listen to, tending to be the bizarre end of experimental, but Perpetuum Mobile offers a lot to tempt the casual listener as well as the confirmed follower.
As usual, the list of “instruments” includes, among the expected guitars and percussion, air compressors, plastic tubes, amplified steel wire, paper, car tire (sic), polystyrene flakes… The result is surprisingly harmonious.
The overall theme is changes, whether natural and catastrophic (earthquakes, floods) or man-made. The title track is an epic 14-minute travelogue in German, but with occasional words in English leaping out – “escalator”, “luggage cart”, “gin ‘n’ tonic”. Consult the beautifully produced booklet of lyrics and you discover that it’s all about constantly moving from A to B because of love. Suddenly it all makes perfect sense. Any traveller can identify with the endless round of airports, planes, taxis, soulless hotel rooms.
Most of the lyrics (all by Blixa Bargeld, until recently an influential member of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds) are in German, so cribbing from the booklet is a great help at the start. Having said that, this music grabs you even if you haven’t a clue what it all means.
Some tracks are lyrical sound-pictures, with a huge canvas of inventive and arresting sounds to tempt the ear – Ein Leichtes Leises Suseln (A Whisper Light And Low), Ich Gehe Jetzt (I’m Going Now) and a standout track, Youme & Meyou. This is a revelation – a gentle, melodious song that reveals Blixa possesses an astonishingly tender voice when the mood takes him. It can never be anything but deep, but here it’s warm, not sepulchral.
Other tracks do your head in rather more, in particular Selbstportrait Mit Kater. When you know that Kater means hangover it all becomes clear. Though the subject matter of Ein Seltener Vogel (A Rare Bird) is very different – a sideways look at the Biblical Flood – the underlying grinding, relentless beat and monotone vocal line are reminiscent of Loverman, one of the darker songs from Nick Cave. But in general this is a genuinely innovative album. Never have polystyrene flakes sounded so good.