Quick disclaimer – I’m not making any kind of political statement in posting about this record, which was a partnership between PETA and Wax Trax! Records. I bought it because I like some of the artists who contributed – Chris & Cosey, Ministry’s Al Jourgensen, Nina Hagen, and Shriekback in particular. You have to admit, the lineup is pretty solid.
While contemporary articles indicate that most of the songs were written specifically for Animal Liberation, many were included by the artists on studio releases or singles prior to 1987. It makes sense that indeed they were written for this comp, which makes sense given that all thematically touch on animal rights, but clearly they weren’t intended only for this record. Others used their song sometime after 1987 – Chris & Cosey’s “Silent Cry” wasn’t put out by the duo until 1990 and Luc Van Acker included “Hunter” on an album in 1992. As near as I can tell the one track that is unique to Animal Liberation is Shriekback’s “Hanging Fire”. Note too that the UK version of the album includes some different tracks, removing Captain Sensible and adding The Smiths and Siouxsie and the Banshees.
The collection of bands is interesting, covering indie rock, new wave, electro, and industrial. While sonically enjoyable, I find that I can’t quite detach myself from the lyrics sufficiently to get into it. Again, this is in no way a comment on the message itself, but more recognizing that it’s a bit of a distraction when it comes to just trying to sit down and play a record. Oh, and the lyric insert contains a pretty gory full color photo of a dog used for animal experiments, so don’t say I didn’t warn you about that.
There are probably some of you out there reading this who don’t remember when there used to be two Germanys, East and West. As for me, I remember where I was when I learned that the Berlin Wall that surrounded West Berlin finally fell, sitting in a dorm room in Pittsburgh and looking with disbelief at the story on the front page of USA Today. The Cold War, such as it was, was over. Of course, it ultimately got replaced by other wars, some of which weren’t and aren’t so cold…
It’s hard to believe that a punk rocker like Nina Hagen could have emerged from East Germany’s oppressive regime but she did, making her way west in 1976 and before long spreading some revolution of her own at the front of the Nina Hagen Band. The “TV-Glotzer (White Punks On Dope)” 10″ was put out in 1980 (♣) specifically for the American market as a way to broaden the now solo Hagen’s exposure to US music fans, who up to that point had to track down hard-to-find and often expensive import copies of her music. The 10″ consists of a pair of songs from her 1978 debut Nina Hagen Band and another pair from her sophomore release, 1979s Unbehagen. It’s like a transitional fossil that proves the link between first generation punk rock and what eventually became new wave. It’s theatrical and glitzy and edgy and sometimes even a bit dub-y, all combined into something 100% authentic and interesting. It’s part Rocky Horror Picture Show, part Devo, and part video game.
Vocally Hagen sounds like the love-child of Freddie Mercury and Sarolta Zalatnay, a classically trained (♠) individualist with tremendous range. With four of her best tracks packaged onto one disc, there’s no filler here – it’s all weird and rocking and all over the place, a worthwhile entry point to her music.
(♣) I believe there was a 12″ version released in Canada as well.
(♠) Hagen studied opera as a chid in East Germany, and was apparently quite accomplished.