Nitzer Ebb

Showtime

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    8
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Having arguably perfected their original formula on Belief -- as well as reaching its limitations -- Douglas McCarthy and Bon Harris started to experiment in a variety of different directions on Showtime, resulting in their best album. Keeping all the original D.A.F.-derived tension and approach of the group's earliest days but showing a greater facility for everything from variety in arrangements to more complex lyrics, Showtime doesn't waste a note (it's not even 40 minutes long) and aims for full attack on all fronts. It doesn't hurt that the album is bookended by two of the band's best-ever singles. "Getting Closer" captures an atmosphere of impending, imminent doom better than just about anything outside of prime Killing Joke, while the heavy synth distortion makes the track rock, all without using guitars. The way the song literally revs up alone is worth the listen. Meanwhile, "Fun to Be Had" starts with an understated, almost swinging start before transforming into a total crowd-pleaser, Harris' astonishing ear for brutally effective rhythms welded to McCarthy in full rabble-rousing mode ("You are young/They are old/Control!/Is all they got to Give!"). Elsewhere is one of electronic body music's all-time highlights, "Lightning Man." With Harris adding both oboe and horn samples to the beats, helping to create a demented atmosphere reminiscent of Foetus, McCarthy steers away from his usual slogan approach to create a portrait of a strange, demonic figure (apparently a metaphor for alcohol addiction) preying on others. The off-kilter cabaret influence crops up throughout the album, with worthy examples including "Nobody Knows," a slow bluesy crawl, while "One Man's Burden" in particular is a highlight of Harris' expanding musical reach, with subtle rhythm shifts and orchestrations showing how soft can work for impact just as well as loud.

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