Picks and Pans Review: Ebbhead

updated 01/27/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/27/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

Nitzer Ebb

Poor industrial rock. Rap, heavy metal and house music have crawled out of the gutter to mainstream acceptance, but industrial rock—a blend of punk fury, synth-pop sterility and disco danceability—still wanders the fringes of college radio.

Nitzer Ebb has long been the odd group in this odd genre. It favors lean, percussion-dominated arrangements and smooth dance grooves over the apocalyptic, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach of (you should pardon the expression) classic industrial bands like Nine Inch Nails.

On Ebbhead this English duo further define their sound. Under producers Alan Wilder (Depeche Mode) and Flood (who mixed most of U2's Achtung Baby), Nitzer Ebb has largely abandoned its arch pretensions, resulting in a refreshing, musically accomplished album.

Douglas McCarthy's vocals are more melodic, less chanted, than on the first three Ebb-ums. On "I Give to You," a rare love song with stunning orchestral effects, he sounds—gasp!—almost emotional. "DJVD" is a strong anthem powered by Bon Harris's thunderous percussion and thankfully free of Ebb's previously overwrought adolescent angst.

Don't expect immediate gratification from Ebbhead. It's an album that rewards multiple listens. But if other industrial bands would learn from Nitzer Ebb's example, those Top 40 doors might finally crack open. (Geffen)

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