Einstürzende Neubauten – Alles In Allem

4 out of 5

Label: Potomak

Produced by: Boris Wilsdorf (recorded by, mixed by)

When I was younger, and the only really long-running bands I knew where groups like Phish or Rolling Stones, I kinda figured… there’s no real way to remain relevant when you’re long in the tooth in the industry. That’s insulting to fans of the above, I realize, and could be said to be purely a reflection of my own tastes, but I do have fandom for some groups who just sort of started churning things out semi-regularly, beyond the point when I’d say they “mattered.” And there’s something to that, for sure; a comfort-food factor, and also that creative folk maybe just like to keep creating (and / or making money – not mutually exclusive). Sometimes groups producing in that vein do strike a note, X years down the line, and that’s quite a treat. But I didn’t know you could actually have a band that ran for decades, and still found new sounds and approaches, release after release. Ups and downs, sure, but the material mostly remains legit, and heartfelt, and not just a yearly checkmark.

Of course, I also had no idea groups like Einstürzende Neubauten existed at that point, either.

Reception to Alles In Allem seems somewhat mixed, and perhaps if I had a full collection of the band’s catalogue, my feelings would be more mixed as well. But I’ve picked and chosen from their many releases, and I like this “modern” incarnation of the group, which feels both appropriate to their age and still boundary-pushing in its own way – it still sounds very much like Einstürzende Neubauten, and still far from settling into a predictable routine. The Allmusic review steps through lyrical analysis better than my English-only, too-lazy-to-translate reviewerly ass can, though the suggestion that we’re dealing with themes of history and reflection can be “felt” in Blixa Bargeld’s emotive, wizened delivery. The music, similarly, lumbers through moments of EN clatter, and the quietness and celebration of contemplation of self and surroundings. The overall sound is perhaps gentle, but again, there’s very much a nervy edge to several compositions that feels perfect for where the group should be at the moment. That said, the exact sequencing of the music lends itself to some odd lulls, where several minimalist downers are strung together, then a few more operatically upbeat tracks, then back to minimalism. Top down it makes sense, but song-to-song, there’s maybe a bit too much tonal similarity – a lack of range – to make each and every track stand out. But when we climb out of those lulls – which are not uninteresting or lacking worth! – the comparative blast of emotion and motion are quite massive though, admittedly making them hit all the harder.

Even with groups that’ve made it into the double digits of time spent together while producing continually impressive music, I’m sometimes left wondering if each album may be their last. While Alles In Allem would not be a bad swan song for Einstürzende Neubauten by any means, it also does not give the impression that they’re running out of things to say, or interesting ways to express them.