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Die Haut and Nick Cave - Burnin' the Ice

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Artist: Die Haut and Nick Cave

Album: Burnin' the Ice

Label: Hit Thing

Review date: Jul. 26, 2004

After abandoning the Old Testament riot act he laid down with the Birthday Party, but before redeeming himself in the obessive gospel carnival of the Bad Seeds, Nick Cave wrote and sang for Berlin’s grubby, galvanizing Die Haut. Four cathartic landmarks, along with three cerebral instrumentals, comprise 1982’s Burnin’ the Ice, now salvaged from the vaults and tacked with encyclopedic liner notes.

While Die Haut wears the Birthday Party’s influence like a tattooed tear, it garnishes the thudding headfuck with a two-guitar cold-cock that would’ve upstaged any lesser frontman. Fortunately, Cave’s still howling here.

“The Stowaway” hints at the campfire yarns he’d cook up down the road apiece (“My girl turned blue and an iceberg do / And I’m totally shipwrecked over her”). But he’d prefer to rant to the drizzly Euro skies (“And if I die tonight then throw me in / Some black Teutonic hole / Six feet under with a snap frozen soul / And really we could all just die of shame… Dumb Europe!”). One wonders what this moody Aussie’s hosts would’ve done to cheer him up had he not, at the end of the day, been given over to labor-intensive urban hedonism (“They’re working us like dogs ‘round here / ‘Cause pleasure is the boss”).

Die Haut sodomizes organic new wave in much the way its heroes the Residents treated ’50s and ’60s kiddie fodder circa Third Reich and Roll. All that’s left is a wet gargle and a lacerating sneer. The rumbling strength behind the band’s cynical approach – sloppy, yes, but the Cave-less “Tokyo Express” reveals these guys as cold, complex brainiacs on par with Einsturzende Neubauten – makes it connect with rare brutality.

For Cave fanatics who haven’t logged many hours with the Birthday Party (I meet a few new ones every month, it seems), Burnin’ the Ice might, as those records do at first brush, feel like perching in a tiny, packed under roaring train tracks. But as you come to realize each noise happens for a reason, the party comes alive. If nothing else, it’s a welcome reminder of the days when Nick Cave clearly wanted to scare us.

By Emerson Dameron

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