Thursday, 12 June 2014

Nitzer Ebb - Big Hit (1995)

I never really bought the idea that Nitzer Ebb had only ever wanted to be The Groundhogs, as peddled by the lads when they started sampling guitars and doing Queen covers on As Is and Ebbhead; and mainly because up until that point they may as well have been a DAF tribute act, so far as I was able to tell, albeit a jolly good DAF tribute act. That said, they were always at their best when at their bluesiest, I thought, even if the vocals were the only obviously blues inspired element, the rest usually being a bunch of bleeping sequencers having a fight in a pub car park.

Ebbhead was pretty good, in my view, and certainly an improvement on the slightly disappointing Showtime which, with hindsight was I suppose the transitional album between the marching up and down whilst frowning really hard era and rocking out like Kiss; but that was it for me. I failed to cross paths with Big Hit because, as with the new material of almost everyone else I was listening to at the time, it failed to appear on vinyl, and I didn't catch up with compact discs until a good few years later when my friend Eddy gave me his old CD player in order to shut me up about being unable to buy the music I wanted to hear. My tastes had also mutated somewhat by that time, and so it never really occurred to me that I might go back and pick up where I'd left off in 1992. Andrew Cox told me he'd seen Nitzer Ebb on the telly, and that they had turned into Nirvana with a guitarist and everything, but it seemed too late to go back.

Happily Andrew's observation was very much a generalisation, and Big Hit sounds nothing like Nirvana. More surprisingly, nor does it particularly sound like either Nine Inch Nails - although that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing - or any of those horrible industrial metal wankers all pretending to be the Blade Runner Ozzy Osbourne over grunting Metallica samples. Big Hit actually sounds like Ebbhead done right, by a band who had at last found their feet. The blend of prog-rockisms, live instruments, and sequencers is so seamless as to render comment obsolete, and is probably done better than anyone has managed to before or since; so this really isn't industrial types pretending they've been into Richie Blackmore's Rainbow from the very beginning so much as just a great rock band sprung from an earlier somewhat different incarnation. Big Hit is probably what anyone who liked Led Zeppelin in the 1970s imagined music would sound like in the year 2000, and Flood Water in particular gallops along like some sort of biomechanical update of Immigrant Song. It's funny how at the time this lot sounded like one of many, but with hindsight it seems they were fairly unique.

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