Documentary Evidence

Nitzer Ebb

Get Clean

Nitzer Ebb 'Get Clean' 12" artwork

single // Get Clean

power of voice communications | 12"/cd neb6 | 03/1993 | track listing

'Get Clean' was released in 1993, around the same time as Nitzer Ebb were moving in a new direction with the adventurous Ebbhead. Released on Power Of Voice Communications, for whom Nitzer Ebb had recorded their earliest work, 'Get Clean' was originally the B-side to the original 12" of 'Let Your Body Learn', and this 12" and CD was issued without the band's permission. This was the latest instalment in an ongoing bitterness between the band and their pre-Mute home, with Douglas McCarthy describing it as 'an endless list of misery and frustration' (that's the edited version, believe me) when I interviewed him earlier this year. Power Of Voice's argument was that they wanted to conclude a CD reissue programme of early Ebb tracks, but that the copyright of 'Let Your Body Learn' had transferred to Mute, leaving them with no option but to release 'Get Clean' as a release in itself. The track was produced by Phil Harding and two previously-unreleased versions are included with this release.

Although clearly a long way from their later work, 'Get Clean' has a rough simplicity in keeping with the band's earliest songs, the main synth sound being what feels like a couple of layers of simple bass sounds joined together to create a single riff that runs through the entire track without relenting. The variation comes in the form of the drums and percussion, alternating between threatening half-speed and full-velocity nihilism. Lots of clangs and metallic sounds sit just behind the beat, linking this to some of the industrial experiments that had been happening over in an East End railway siding in the creation of Depeche Mode's 'Pipeline'.

McCarthy's vocals are direct, bratty and shouty, deploying lots of urgent, repeated lines about getting clean, none of which make a lot of sense. In the background are some distinctly out of breath sexual grunts, terminating in what sounds like a strained climax right at the very end of the track. These sounds are mostly just background noises on the lead version, but on the two extra mixes McCarthy's vocal is ditched completely in favour of the breathing, the first still retaining a rhythm while the second version more or less ditches anything other than a hissing drone noise and occasional interludes from the bass riff. I guess there has always been a sexual quality to Nitzer Ebb's music, but never quite so overtly as on 'Get Clean'. Perhaps I'm a bit too much of a prude, but it's actually a little bit excessive on the additional mixes here.

It's easy to understand McCarthy's frustration with this track being released since the band were making huge leaps into a new direction with Ebbhead, 'Get Clean' effectively dragging focus back to some of their more naive work. As a Nitzer Ebb fan it's interesting to hear alternative mixes of a track from their earliest period, but even so it's a curiosity more than essential item.

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A. Get Clean
B. Get Clean (Raw Sex Without Rhythm)

1. Get Clean
2. Get Clean (Raw Sex)
3. Get Clean (Raw Sex Without Rhythm)

(c) 2012 MJA Smith / Documentary Evidence