Posted by: markfender | November 21, 2012

Headphone Diaries – March 20, 1990

It’s a double-dose of Diaries this week because it’s Thanksgiving (or because I didn’t have anything else going on – pick whichever seems more reasonable to you)

Nitzer Ebb
Showtime

It’s fitting that the band that achieved most of their fame for opening for Depeche Mode on their 101 tour comes out with an album the following week as Depeche Mode’s biggest success. Nitzer Ebb is much more EBM than Depeche Mode, but they had a mainstreamy enough sound to achieve some crossover fans. I discovered this band with their next release, ebbhead, on that local weird radio station, but I definitely think Showtime is definitely where they start getting good.

I inherited the tape for ebbhead actually. In college, I met a guy who was a giant Depeche Mode nerd. Such a giant Depeche Mode nerd that he also owned all their opening band’s cassettes. So, naturally he had Nitzer Ebb. I borrowed ebbhead from him as I’d only heard “Godhead” at the time. I liked it quite a bit. The very next week, he was kicked out of school for drug possession and I never saw him again. So, whee, free tape!

I think what makes Nitzer Ebb work is Douglas McCarthy’s voice. He’s right on the edge between typical British electronica voice and typical German industrial/EBM voice – enough gravel to sound sinister but with a more melodious edge to it. His work with Alan Wilder’s side-project-from-Depeche-Mode-that-became-his-main-project Recoil is also really good (and I will be talking about Recoil eventually).

So far, this Headphone Diary thing hasn’t really worked out for me. I’ve listened to a lot of stuff I’d rather forget (and had done a pretty good job at forgetting). But, this time it actually worked out! As I typically do when it comes time to check out a band’s oeuvre, I log into Spotify. When I did this with Nitzer Ebb (as I hadn’t heard some of their earlier stuff), I discovered that they had gotten back together and released a new album. In 2010, Industrial Complex came out. I’d had no idea. I knew that they had parted ways and I naturally just stopped checking in on them. So I totally missed their return. And it’s pretty damn good. So, yay, new music (at least to me).

Did it age well? Probably not. It’s EBM. It all sounds like the ’80s. Even the current stuff.

Should this go on your iPod? Well, it’s on mine but that isn’t necessarily a sign of good taste. I’d seriously consider looking at their greatest hits collection Body of Work to see if you’d be into that sort of thing. Personally, I stick to their later work as it has aged a little better.

Sinead O’Connor
i do not want what i haven’t got

I probably don’t need to sell this one to you. It’s on Rolling Stone’s Greatest Albums of all Time list. It won a Grammy (that she refused, probably for some vague political reason). “Nothing Compares 2 U” was in constant rotation with Billy Idol’s “Cradle of Love” on MTV. You’ve heard it before. You’ll probably hear it again. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a great album. Because it is.

We’ve all heard the story of how “Nothing Compares 2 U” is a Prince song. But I doubt many of us have heard the original, because it wasn’t on a Prince album (until much later). It was originally a funk offshoot band of Prince’s called The Family. And it is fucking terrible. Do not listen to it. It’s a terrible, terrible song. This is another one of those cases where Sinead O’Connor completely and totally owned the cover. It’s her song now and Prince should be ashamed for ever having thought it should have sounded the way he recorded it originally. But this highlights an interesting ability of O’Connor’s – make a cover her own. Besides “Nothing Compares 2 U,” this album also featured a “cover” of the traditional Irish ballad “I Am Stretched on Your Grave” and her version is pretty damned awesome.

Did it age well? These are still good songs. The political songs haven’t aged as well, simply because the situations and personalities are no longer relevant (Thatcher? Really?). Which is always the problem with political songs. But the rest of the album is good.

Should this go on your iPod? Absolutely. And while you’re at it: hunt down “You Made Me the Thief of Your Heart” from the In the Name of the Father soundtrack because that is also an excellent O’Connor track you might not have heard.

OMG the week isn’t over yet, though! There’s another major release I still have yet to talk about. I think I’m going to save that one for next week, however, when another band released something that shares the same music space. Then, we can have a fun compare and contrast session that will end with everyone in tears. Try to guess what that album is. I’ll wait.

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