Nitzer Ebb/ December 4, 2009/ Gramercy Theater

Filed under: Live Music,Reviews — doktorjohn December 10, 2009 @ 4:20 am

Douglas McCarthy of Nitzer Ebb

A brisk and damp Friday night on Manhattan’s East 23rd Street saw a collection of die-hard industrial music fans gather outside the Blender Theater to worship one of the earliest and most eccentric pioneers in the style, the English band, Nitzer Ebb on tour to promote their new album named—what else?— “Industrial Complex.”

Dating back to the genesis of the industrial scene around 1983, these boys present a theatrical image in keeping with their weirdly unique brand of music, complete with pseudo-Germanic and pseudo-militaristic affectations. In that sense they resemble another band from that era, Laibach, known also for counterfeit German and military affectations. One major difference is that while Laibach worked from revisionist versions of cover songs, Nitzer Ebb does mainly original material consisting of harsh, repetitive, mantra-like lyrics shouted over pitiless electronic percussion and the absence of melody. The very name, Nitzer Ebb is an enigma, evoking a kind of dismal, hard feeling, but with no particular meaning, and in fact, no consistent pronunciation.

They have managed to maintain a surprisingly high profile, touring with such big names as Depeche Mode and contributing to the soundtrack of a recent horror flick, “Saw VI.”

In Nitzer Ebb’s heyday, frontman Douglas McCarthy used to appear in military jodhpur pants and knee-high jackboots, but this night he greeted the New York crowd warmly in shades, a suit, white shirt and tie, and in stark contrast with the punkish bandanas, mohawks and construction-booted attire of the audience.

The show opened with the rapidly paced, “Promises” from the 1989 album “Belief.” Next, “Let Your Body Learn” from 1987’s “That Total Age,” similar in style, followed. Dancing, gyrating and strutting around frenetically on stage seems to have kept McCarthy in superb shape.
“Shame” from the 2006 compilation “Body of Work” had a funkier rhythm but increased the brutality index. “Lightning Man,” too, had a sinister sound, emphasized by the hollow, deep, clangy bass-line heard on much of their music, and was livened up with a repeated jazz riff that sounded like it came from a robotic clarinet.

McCarthy’s jacket came off as the performance intensified with song after song featuring their ruthlessly repetitious signature sound. The crowd seemed intoxicated with McCarthy’s angry, barking lyrics and the mesmerizing, motorized cadences. “Godhead” had McCarthy growling to a rapid-fire swing beat.

Gramercy Theater provided a spectacular light show throughout the hour-long concert of around 15 songs, through “Murderous” and “Control I’m Here,” to the climactic closing piece, for which this band is best known, “Join In the Chant.” After a brief intermission, they returned for two more songs climaxing with the finale, “I Give to You.”

Nitzer Ebb certainly pleased the audience with their unique formula of maniacally repeating brutal lyrics (“Lies, lies, lies, lies…Guns, guns, guns, guns!”) over monotonous, thumping mechanical rhythms.

And below is the same article as it appears in the 12-30-09 issue of The Aquarian

Skinny Puppy as published in The Aquarian Decemeber 16, 2009

Filed under: Live Music,Reviews — doktorjohn December 9, 2009 @ 6:50 pm

Most Unusual, the Aquarian published the photo in COLOR!

Skinny Puppy at Nokia

Filed under: Live Music,Reviews — doktorjohn December 8, 2009 @ 4:08 am

Skinny Puppy/ Nokia Theater Times Square
November 17, 2009
New York, NY
By Doktor John

Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy

The bizarre performance-art/industrial music project called Skinny Puppy, now in its third decade, continues to outdo itself in every measure from musical creativity to mind-boggling staging to ghastly offensiveness. The current tour, dubbed “In Solvent See” in honor of the economic crisis, touched down in the City at the Nokia, drawing crowds of the region’s most avid industrial culture freaks young and old, many in full cyber-punk regalia.

The opening act was a heavy-metal soloist backed by a digital audio track going under the name Werewolf Grehv. While he proved his abundant dexterity on the electric guitar, what he mostly produced were cadenzas of structure-less noise with no discernible rhythm.

Skinny Puppy came on a little after 9:30 PM, front man Nivek Ogre horrifyingly stooped over an invalid walker, masked and in a huge dunce-cap or Ku Klux Klan hood, depending on how you saw it. If that wasn’t disorienting enough, the lighting consisted mostly of rapid-sequence motion-picture projection that flooded the stage and flickered blindingly, fragmenting the image of the stage set, the musicians and the props constantly.

Musically, they were at their very best, performing many of their early masterpieces like “Addiction” and “Rodent,” but with rich electronic layers added and exceptionally clear vocals. Ogre’s costume came off in a series of unveilings, each time revealing yet another creepy mask or garment underneath. Less common classics were represented such as “Morpheus Laughing” and “Antagonism,” rather than the expected “Testure” and “Killing Game,” which were conspicuously absent.

Newer material from the latter two albums included the bombastic “Pedafly” and the shocking “Politikill.” “Ugli,” off the 2007 “Mythmaker” disc, proved offensive to a handful of the audience who quietly arose from their seats and exited the auditorium when religious imagery was projected on to the background screen. “Assimilate” had political overtones, highlighted by images of the stars and stripes on screen, suggesting a critique of attitudes surrounding immigration.

They took a short break around an hour into their show, returning with their greatest anthem, “Worlock” done in extended version, followed by an unfamiliar piece that featured the monotonous mantra of the word “crazy” repeated again and again. A surprising and satisfying climax was reached with the archetypal “Far Too Frail,” following which Ogre shouted the group’s appreciation to the New York crowd.

Skinny Puppy has gone through break-ups, betrayals, collaborations with other musicians and the destructive withdrawal of key members, even by death. With this, their zillionth live performance in 27 years, Skinny Puppy‘s Ogre and cEvin Key have distinguished themselves as the most bold, inventive masters of the industrial style and creators of a unique brand of music that creates beautiful music out of ugly noise.

Note: I have no idea how I got this excellent photo. If you read the third paragraph (above) you get an idea of how distorted and discombobulated the visual effects were. I took dozens of useless mishmosh photos of unrecognizable light and color patterns that prevailed throughout the show. Yet in one precious instant, everything was clear (see picture) and the photo at the top of this entry is the result!