Japanese director Sogo Ishii (now called Gakuryu Ishii) is credited for kickstarting the Japanese Cyberpunk movement in the early 80's with films like Burst City. But I just learned that a few minutes ago. In fact I never heard of Sogo Ishii, until I did a google search for Einsturzende Neubauten's film 1/2 Mensch (or Halber Mensch). Now, after watching the trailer for Burst City, I NEED to watch his films. Here, enjoy the trailer...
Anyway, as I said, I was looking up Einsturzende Neubauten's 1/2 Mensch, because I got into a conversation about it and The Road To God Knows Where with my wife while we were discussing 20,000 Days on Earth. All three films are connected to Nick Cave (because Blixa Bargeld from EN was in The Bad Seeds in The Road To God Knows Where). All three films are visually arresting, but 1/2 Mensch is head and shoulders above the other two as far as pure entertainment.
I found the VHS for 1/2 Mensch while I was working at Garage Video (RIP) in Brighton, MA. I had just purchased EN's Kollaps within the previous month and it was a great city album that I played a lot while walking around Boston. So finding the video buried in a stack in the back of the store was an exciting moment.
The film was shot during EN's 1985 tour of Japan and mixed concert footage and music videos into a heady hour long cocktail of visual/aural ecstasy.
The above scene really captures the clash of German/Japanese punk/industrial cultures. If you can't track down the 2005 DVD, it's all up on Youtube and the songs are all from the album Halber Mensch.
EN formed in West Berlin in 1980 and had a big impact on artists like Nick Cave. Calling them an Industrial band may be more appropriate than any other band of that genre, since they incorporated scrap metal and building tools into their music. They made abrasive music all the more so, to my ears, because the songs are in German. So I never knew what the songs were about, but it didn't matter. The mechanical nihilism was quite the soundtrack for a frozen city life.
There are American groups, like Big Black, Swans and Killdozer, who come to mind when looking for comparisons, but EN have an added level of performance art that set them apart. Cave wrote a great piece called Thistle Through My Soul about EN's influence on him, which appears in his book King Ink I (from 2.13.61).
I don't see a whole lot of experimentation from bands out there these days and I don't mean music isn't good anymore. In fact, I think Metal has never been better, though punk needs a shot of adrenline, and industrial has been absorbed or watered down by other genres. What I mean is a band like Einsturzende Neubauten or Swans haven't really popped up in a long time and we could use a good status quo ball kicking.
Anybody have any recommendations? Because I'll be the first to admit that I miss things and lately the only albums I'm getting sent to review have been Metal and Grindcore, which have been great, but I also listen to Glenn Branca, Townes Van Zandt, John Zorn, Lydia Lunch, Mortals, Charlie Rich, Art Blakey, Black Flag, 7 Year Bitch, Lucinda Williams, Gun Club, George Jones...in other words, my album collection is a mess and I like it like that! One reason I stopped buying punk albums for a while was because every new album I picked up sounded like a B- effort from Bad Religion or NOFX. F'ing yawn.
So who's pushing the envelope these days?