Since bursting onto the Berlin punk scene in the early 1980s
blending guitar feedback, road drills and lumps of metal, the
band -- whose name means "collapsing new buildings" -- has
become increasingly highbrow, winning a five-star review for the
album of "Lament" in Britain's Financial Times.
Alternatively loud and lyrical, using a dulcimer strung with
barbed wire and crutches played like a cello as well as a string
quartet, "Lament" portrays the horror of the 1914-18 war without
patriotism or nostalgia. Somehow, the show -- now in the middle
of a 17-city European tour -- also manages to be entertaining.
"I want to tell a horrible story beautifully. I don't think it
would be justifiable to do a whole performance about World War
One with a completely depressing ending," Neubauten's front man
and creative director Blixa Bargeld told Reuters in Berlin.
It is an eclectic mix, from the deafening Kriegsmaschinerie
("war machines") that open the show to an electro rendition of
telegrams between Kaiser Wilhelm and Russia's Czar Nicholas. "On
Patrol in No Man's Land" was once played by the band of the
all-black U.S. regiment nicknamed the "Harlem Hellfighters".
A 16th-century Dutch composition blends with ghostly early
recordings of prisoners of war, while Pete Seeger's folk song
"Where have all the flowers gone?" is revived, partly in German,
in the version made famous by Marlene Dietrich in the 1960s.
But the most uplifting moment is when Bargeld, once a skinny
punk in leather trousers and now a dapper figure in a black suit
and bare feet, brings his song "How did I die?" to the haunting
conclusion: "We didn't die/We're just singing a different song".
"Lament" and new works by former Velvet Underground member John
Cale and British band Tindersticks were commissioned for
anniversary events in 2014 and 2015 by the Belgian city of
Diksmuide in Flanders, which was totally destroyed in the war.
Germany's approach to this year's 100th anniversary of World War
One and the 75th anniversary of the start of World War Two --
German defeat in the first bearing the seeds of the second, in
historians' view -- has been low key and reflective.
Bargeld said he tried to keep a distance from the "horrific"
subject matter but the process was inevitably painful.
"When you write about death you are always writing about your
own death," said the 55-year-old German musician.
(Reporting by Stephen Brown; Editing by Michael Roddy and
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