(klick the above link to read the actual feature on STARVOX)
At The Registry
Filed: '83 - '03 (Strobelight)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis
Murder At The Registry, it seems, have been around for ten years. This, their first 'real' album, if you discount early self-released cassettes, brings together an assortment of tracks from a decade's worth of singles and EPs, plus some 2003 material. It's an ideal introduction to a band which has plenty of history behind it, if a rather sparse discography. Murder At The Registry have notched up a certain amount of recognition in their home territory of Germany - but they've never made that elusive big breakthrough. Maybe this compilation will change all that, because this is a band which deserves to be better known.
So, this is what you get. Sixteen tracks, three different line-ups, and an entertaining variety of hairstyles in the through-the-ages promo pix. The tracks are not presented in chronological order: for example, 'Addicted', the oldest song here, an out-take from an early cassette release, comes up as track 6. Therefore it's not easy to get an impression of the band's development over the years - older songs, recorded on 8-track and displaying endearingly vintage production values, actually crop up in the middle of the album, bookended by material from 1999 and 2003. Maybe that was intentional, because although the line-ups have changed and the production has improved over the years, the essential ingredients of the Murder At The Registry sound have remained consistent.
This is a band rooted in the post-punk styles of the early 1980s - that heady period when punk had brought the barriers tumbling down, and all manner of weird and creative stuff grabbed its chance to push through. The band themselves mention The Chameleons, Comsat Angels, And Also The Trees and Christian Death as their influences, and indeed if you're looking for reference points those fit the bill very well (although Bunny Peculiar has just suggested Play Dead as another possible name to drop in this context - and yep, they fit, too!)
But don't run away with the idea that Murder At The Registry are some sort of retro outfit, trying to drag the past into the present. They are most definitely not slaves to their influences: the over-riding impression I get from this compilation is that here is a band which, at the heart of everything, has always done its own thing.
In no sort of order, some highlights. 'The Creatures Are Having Fun With The Hollywood Dreamblaster' is one of the new tracks, and it's immediately obvious that the production is much more upfront and assertive than the older stuff. It's a gung-ho romp, somewhat akin to the Cure at their most playful. The guitars go dang-a-dang-a-dang, the beat goes stomp-THWACK, and the vocals are declaimed with gleeful dramatics. 'Pump' might be familiar as Murder At The Registry's contribution to the first Hex Files compilation album: it's a burst of manic energy, the vocals yelped out as if Thomas, the singer, has just stepped on a tin tack. As it happens, it's probably the most 'Batcave' track Murder At The Registry have ever recorded, and, while it's fun, it's not particularly typical of the band's overall style. 'Addicted', the aforementioned early track, is a mid-tempo ballad, quite a bleak little thing in its way. 'Das Lied der Schwermuth' dates from 1999, and features lyrics lifted from Neietzsche - it's a rollicking old art-rock extravaganza, like Rozz-period Christian Death, high drama all the way. 'Death Passion' is an end-of-the-century angst-rant, an angular, awkward, post-punk rocker, the bass and drums working away like vintage Gang Of Four. Curiously, the vocals seem almost Welsh on this one. With this in mind, I'm struck by how much 'Mein Wirres Kind' has a bizarre John Cale feel to it - this song would drop right into one of Cale's solo albums and fit in very neatly.
A few songs don't quite hit the mark - 'Freight Train', for example, is a frankly rather forgettable tune with low-key vocals at the start which give way to a lengthy, mellow, almost jazz-rock number, like a late night Steely Dan mood-track. It trundles along in an oddly polite fashion - I was expecting a thundering, clanging, monster, but this is one freight train that never quite gets a green light. In the interests of providing a comprehensive overview, I suppose it's appropriate to include this song, and the one or two others which have my finger twitching in the direction of the 'skip' button, but for me Murder At The Registry are at their best when they've got a bit more passion in the fuel tank. Fortunately, there's plenty of passion here. Here's hoping that it doesn't take another ten years for the band to release their next album.
Das Leid Der Schwermuth
Mein Wirres Kind
Always On The Brink
Wo Bin Ich?
The Stolen Photograph
The Creatures Are Having Fun Wioth The Hollywood Dreamblaster
Frozen In Hesitation
Thomas - Bass, vocals
Martin - Guitar, backing vocals
Holger - Guitar
Melanie - Synths
Andrea - Synths
Stefan - Drums
Carsten - Drums
The website: http://www.murderattheregistry.com
Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: http://www.nemesis.to