"Livin' fear of James Last"- Nurse With Wound variety pack
"Livin' fear of James Last"- Nurse With Wound
9/1/06 by Lazarus and the Gimp
"Industrial" has become a dirty word over the past 15 years, ever since that little bastard Trent Reznor dragged it all down into the sewer. These days, it's becoming increasing homogenous and just a showcase of retarded adolescent tantrums and angst, clumsily welded to near-metal arrangements. It's almost impossible to believe that for the first 15 years, Industrial was the most furiously inventive and adventurous genre going. You had the provocative sleaze of Throbbing Gristle, the wild Continental theatricality of The Young Gods, the oppressive noise of Non....why the hell did that sense of adventure get lost?
Nurse With Wound were the wildest and weirdest of the lot. Since 1979, Steven Stapleton has been churning out some of the most bizarre and compelling music ever recorded. Stapleton is an artist who happens to make music as part of his output, and his overwhelming influence is Dadaism. That leads to totally unpredictable and surreal creations, all suffused with a perverse/playful sense of humour. Humour is, of course, a rare quality in Industrial music these days...
The early Nurse With Wound albums were a skull-blitzing clash of Krautrock and Magic Band-esque flailings. I'm going to put my hand up and admit to the fact that, even though I'm a big NWW fan, I find them almost impossible to sit through. That all changed with their fifth album (from 1982) "Homotopy to Marie" which saw a radical re-invention of Stapleton's style. Largely abandoning collaborators, he used a "studio as instrument" approach to start making albums almost entirely of tape edits. "Homotopy..." was typified by strange skittering noises emerging from silence, as oddly-processed voices gibbered and clattered. It still sounds contemporary 24 years on, and remains an unsettling yet compelling album.
All Stapleton's subsequent albums (over 30- the bloke is highly prolific) have followed down this course, though in recent years there's been a shift towards more conventional song structures- he atttributes this to his "re-discovery of rhythm". They're still damned odd, however. With such an intimidatingly large back catalogue, newcomers to NWW have for years been heard to wail "Where do we start?". What they needed, of course, was a handy sampler to ease them in to the NWW experience.
Now, after 26 years, they've finally got one with "Livin' fear of James Last". Predictably enough, Stapleton hasn't described it as a "Best of..."; it's pitched as a "Nurse With Wound variety pack". Coincidentally, it's also Stapleton's debut recording for a major label, and I'd be challenged to name a less likely artist to appear on any major recording label. An attractively-priced double-CD, it features 19 tracks from the full breadth of Stapleton's long career.
Stapleton's Dadaist perversity is never far away on this collection. Nearly all of the more "challenging" tracks are on CD 1, ensuring that noobs are thoroughly baffled before steaming into the far more accessible collection on CD 2. The track selection is strong- it's includes my personal favourites "A piece of the sky is missing", "Cold", "Intravenous" and "Yagga Blues". It's disappointing that no tracks were taken from the important "Homotopy" album, but that's of interest only to obsessives like me. To anyone else, what's here is a good, representative sample of an artist I'd consider to be very tricky to represent.
There's just one glaring flaw to this review. I'm steering clear of the question "what does it actually sound like?". I think it's pointless where this band is concerned- one just has to make a leap of faith. However I can warn anybody expecting this to sound remotely like Nine Inch Nails not to buy it. This is as charming and unsettling as being playfully affectionately mauled by a puppy with three heads.