Nitzer Ebb crafted synthesized bass lines that sounded like the Neptunes trying to play Metallica riffs on a keyboard, and Douglas McCarthy's vocals gave pegged-pants proto-ravers something to shout along with. It was electronic body music (EBM), and it might as well have been Nitzer Ebb's very own subgenre. Singles like "Murderous" and "Let Your Body Learn" took techno's icy pummel and put a hard-bodied personality to it, doing for the Detroit sound what it couldn't do for itself; this was a favor returned by Richie Hawtin and Carl Craig, who both included NE's "Join in The Chant (Burn)" on recent mix discs. This exhaustive set of singles and remixes reveals how the band came up with a sound so simple and direct early on, and how it took on a life of its own in dance floor remixes. It's true Nitzer Ebb couldn't even top it, as electronic body music yielded to larger trends in alternative rock and the band itself fizzled. (In fact, by the late '90s McCarthy was living in Grosse Pointe, working at Somerset Mall and looking to start a traditional rock band.) And yet, the third, import-only disc of Body of Work contains modern-day remixes, and the group reunited for a memorable performance at the Movement Festival earlier this year, proving that people were ready to join the chant again.
Hobey Echlin writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].