Einsturzende Neubauten: Palast Der Republik [DVD]

The creation of their music is oftentimes as visually stimulating as it is adventurous, and the well-lit and clear-eyed presentation on this DVD gives the audience a perfect vantage with which to see every percussive stroke of genius.

Einstürzende Neubauten

Palast Der Republik

MPAA rating: N/A
Label: MVD
US Release Date: 2007-03-13
UK Release Date: 2006-12-04

The Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR) ceased to exist in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent reunification of Germany. The Palast der Republik was home to East Germany's parliament, and a vivid symbol of the regime, finally and fittingly demolished in 2005 to make way for a new City Palace. However before the building was destroyed, it bore witness to one additional spectacle in its long and colorful history: a performance by German industrial godfathers Einstürzende Neubauten.

Einstürzende Neubauten have always been preoccupied with architecture -- an admittedly recondite subject for most popular music, but integral to the group's conceptual backbone. Anyone who knows the group knows that the form and function of their music is indistinguishable from the conceptual framework it occupies. Using the discarded detritus of industrial waste and refuse -- scrap metal and PVC piping, plastic jugs and tin cans -- they create a riotous clatter offset not only by the surpassing subtlety of their songwriting skill but by the bilingual lyrical acumen of singer Blixa Bargeld. It is one of the great ironies of modern pop that a group that set out to play punk contributed so much to the creation of industrial music, before evolving beyond even the wide definition of industrial and into one of the most distinctively subtle entities in contemporary music.

Palast Der Republik presents the group in fine form, playing for an enthusiastic hometown crowd in a historically unique venue. Live, Einstürzende Neubauten do not present much in the way of spectacle: no fancy light shows, no video installations, no makeup or flames. What the band may lack in flash, however, they more than make up for in substance. The creation of their music is oftentimes as visually stimulating as it is adventurous, and the well-lit and clear-eyed presentation on this DVD gives the audience a perfect vantage with which to see every percussive stroke of genius: from the drum set composed of serrated sheet metal to the air compressors that blow through the spinning garbage pile (which resembles, as Bargeld points out during the audio commentary, the wedding cake on the cover of the Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed), the DVD offers the viewer a unique birds-eye view of the post-industrial clatter.

The set draws heavily from their recent material, specifically their 2004 album Perpetuum Mobile as well as 2000's Silence is Sexy. "Youme & Meyou" and "Dead Friends (Around the Corner)", two understated highlights from Perpetuum Mobile, appear early in the performance (the latter invariably bringing to mind the work of fellow traveler Nick Cave, for whom Bargeld served a long tenure as lead guitarist in the Bad Seeds). The romantic ballad "Sabrina", off Silence, appears near the end of the program. In the commentary, Bargeld notes that he was especially grateful for the audience's decorum on this date, as a rowdy audience can disrupt the extended quietude which "Sabrina" demands -- thankfully, the house remains respectfully quiet, rapt throughout the performance.

The group intersperses these quieter moments with what might be described as their more traditionally noisy tracks. The set opens with "Haus Der Luege", one of the oldest continually performed numbers in the Einstürzende Neubauten catalog, a track which also most closely hews to their industrial reputation. "Was Ist Ist", off 1998's Ende Neu, is performed with the aid of a 100 member choir assembled from members of their fan club. There are also a few passages of pure improvisation, offering an intimate look at the group's creative process in action (as is explained during the commentary, most of their songs are composed of elements created during improvisatory studio sessions). One of these such passages, an attempt to play the metal railings of the Palast itself with drumsticks, fails miserably -- as the band explains, they had miscalculated just how the building would sound, and it sounds fairly boring. But it's fun to watch, in any event.

Two concert staples -- "Die Befindlichkeit des Landes" and the climactic "Redukt" -- are notably absent from the performance, although both are present in the form of separately recorded encore footage. Considering that the concert itself only clocks in at 80 minutes, the absence is odd -- perhaps the permits necessary to perform in the Palast building necessitated a brief performance? (The commentary doesn't indicate one way or another.) As far as bonus material goes, the extra tracks and commentary (presented, annoyingly, in both English and German, as the band lapses in and out of their native tongue over the course of the film) are good but hardly exceptional. Thankfully, the show itself is good enough that you hardly miss the bells and whistles.

I was lucky enough to be able to see Einstürzende Neubauten on the first leg of their 2004 tour, on what Bargeld said might well be their last-ever American dates (not that the band is breaking up, just that they hate the consolidation of American venues under corporate sponsorship). Other than the fact that the DVD performance is a bit shorter than when I saw them, the show is as revelatory as expected. Although they may differ considerably from your average hard rock ensemble, they are nevertheless one of the most compelling bands in existence, and well worth the effort to see live. Given that they don't plan on returning to the States any time soon, US-based fans are well-advised to seek out this disc as a snapshot of one of the best bands on the planet at the height of their powers.





'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.


Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.


Country Music's John Anderson Counts the 'Years'

John Anderson, who continues to possess one of country music's all-time great voices, contemplates life, love, mortality, and resilience on Years.


Rory Block's 'Prove It on Me' Pays Tribute to Women's Blues

The songs on Rory Block's Prove It on Me express the strength of female artists despite their circumstances as second class citizens in both the musical world and larger American society.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 3, Echo & the Bunnymen to Lizzy Mercier Descloux

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part three with Echo & the Bunnymen, Cabaret Voltaire, Pere Ubu and more.


Wendy Carlos: Musical Pioneer, Reluctant Icon

Amanda Sewell's vastly informative new biography on musical trailblazer Wendy Carlos is both reverent and honest.


British Folk Duo Orpine Share Blissful New Song "Two Rivers" (premiere)

Orpine's "Two Rivers" is a gently undulating, understated folk song that provides a welcome reminder of the enduring majesty of nature.


Blesson Roy Gets "In Tune With the Moon" (premiere)

Terry Borden was a member of slowcore pioneers Idaho and a member of Pete Yorn's band. Now he readies the debut of Blesson Roy and shares "In Tune With the Moon".


In 'Wandering Dixie', Discovering the Jewish South Is Part of Discovering Self

Sue Eisenfeld's Wandering Dixie is not only a collection of dispatches from the lost Jewish South but also a journey of self-discovery.


Bill Withers and the Curse of the Black Genius

"Lean on Me" singer-songwriter Bill Withers was the voice of morality in an industry without honor. It's amazing he lasted this long.


Jeff Baena Explores the Intensity of Mental Illness in His Mystery, 'Horse Girl'

Co-writer and star Alison Brie's unreliable narrator in Jeff Baena's Horse Girl makes for a compelling story about spiraling into mental illness.


Pokey LaFarge Hits 'Rock Bottom' on His Way Up

Americana's Pokey LaFarge performs music in front of an audience as a way of conquering his personal demons on Rock Bottom.


Joni Mitchell's 'Shine' Is More Timely and Apt Than Ever

Joni Mitchell's 2007 eco-nightmare opus, Shine is more timely and apt than ever, and it's out on vinyl for the first time.


'Live at Carnegie Hall' Captures Bill Withers at His Grittiest and Most Introspective

Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall manages to feel both exceptionally funky and like a new level of grown-up pop music for its time.


Dual Identities and the Iranian Diaspora: Sepehr Debuts 'Shaytoon'

Electronic producer Sepehr discusses his debut album releasing Friday, sparing no detail on life in the Iranian diaspora, the experiences of being raised by ABBA-loving Persian rug traders, and the illegal music stores that still litter modern Iran.


From the Enterprise to the Discovery: The Decline and Fall of Utopian Technology and the Liberal Dream

The technology and liberalism of recent series such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the latest Doctor Who series have more in common with Harry Potter's childish wand-waving than Gene Roddenberry's original techno-utopian dream.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 2, The B-52's to Magazine

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part two with the Cure, Mission of Burma, the B-52's and more.


Emily Keener's "Boats" Examines Our Most Treasured Relationships (premiere)

Folk artist Emily Keener's "Boats" offers a warm look back on the road traveled so far—a heartening reflection for our troubled times.


Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".


On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.