If we were paying attention, we could have seen it coming.
Die Warzau never shied away from the funk. Die Warzau were always a little more organic than the average band that got lumped into the ‘industrial’ genre. Die Warzau managed their biggest club hit with what basically amounted to a synthpop song. Die Warzau, in the final days before their breakup in 1995, employed a full-time saxophone player as part of their stage show. Indeed, as a band they never quite ascribed to the same nihilistic, mechanical aesthetics of their black-clad brethren, even if they used many of the same musical techniques. Instead, Die Warzau chose to transcend those limitations by melding them with elements of other genres and putting a bona fide crooner over the top of it all, coming up with a product that just might be as enjoyable to Joe Average as it is to Nivek Rivethead.
So really, it shouldn’t be all that surprising that, reuniting nine years later, nine years older and nine years wiser, Jim Marcus and Van Christie decided (with the help of new members Abel Garibaldi and Dan Evans) to give in to their pop tendencies, dispose of any preconceived notions of what kind of band they should be, and just make a pile of music that they happen to enjoy.
The album is called Convenience, and that name could mean a couple of different things as far as Die Warzau is concerned. For one, it was convenient that they recorded at their home studio, which likely made them more comfortable trying new things. For two, it’s convenient for their fans to have pretty much every single genre that the band has ever experimented in contained over the course of a single CD. Or it could be a stab in a totally different direction, a title that, combined with the packaging and the almost shocking sound of the pop songs on this album, satirizes the current prepackaged, manufactured state of the music industry.
Supporting the latter theory are some of the lyrics that show up in the most obvious (some would say egregious) example of Die Warzau’s new pop-oriented direction. “There was a time when you could feel the weight of the world on you / When did you turn so cold? / Turn off the radio,” Jim Marcus emotes in his best imitation of late teenage tenor. The juxtaposition of those lyrics with the sterile electronics and major key melodies of the worst late-’90s boy-band ballads suggests that Marcus and company are trying to make some kind of anti-establishment statement, but whatever message does exist tends to get lost in the shock of music like this existing on a Die Warzau album. Other forays into pop are a bit more musically successful, like the tender “Permission”, which hides its pop tendencies in washes of static, and album-closer “Shine”, floating in Duran Duran airspace while acting as a surprisingly successful sequel to the Engine hit “Allgoodgirls”.
Lost in all of the hoohaa over the pop songs on the disc is the fact that the sheer variety of styles displayed on Convenience borders on mind-numbing. Plenty of tracks steer closer to the Die Warzau that the industrialites of the mid-’90s came to know and love — “Radiation Babies” features a funky slap bass lifted straight off of 1992’s Big Electric Metal Bass Face, and fast-paced electronics and vocals push the song into club hit territory. “King of Rock and Roll” juxtaposes distorted vocals and a slow beat with a bit of Aphex Twin-influenced drill ‘n bass, and “Superbuick” features as grungy a guitar riff as modern music has seen since grunge itself died its own slow, painful death. An homage to Skinny Puppy appears via “Terrorform”, with cut-up vocals and a faux-metal guitar that owes more than a little to Skinny Puppy’s recent hit “Pro-Test”, not to mention that it features the lyric “kill to cure”, referencing a slogan from the mid-’80s incarnation of the mighty Puppy.
The neat thing is, for every “Terrorform” there’s a “Glare”, which while it’s a decent song might be a bit too much like a folky, brooding Everlast song for a lot of peoples’ tastes. For every “Curious” (industrial dirge with explosive guitar ending à la Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt”), there’s a “Come as You Are” (light, fluffy techno). Convenience is 16 solid tracks long, clocking in at nearly 70 minutes. It never gets tiring or monotonous, because the listener is in a constant state of wondering just what the next song could possibly sound like. It’s like listening to a mix tape of songs that all just happen to have the same vocalist, and it is a success for that reason more than any other — Convenience effectively proves that Die Warzau is a band that cannot be pinned to any musical genre, and not only is it a fantastic listen, it also points to unlimited possibilities for the future.