I’m sure everyone knows these really bad looking posters advertising some big time event in your town. Mostly they are sponsored by big brands, speak about sensational stuff that actually just bores you to death. Even worse are the looks of these ads.
A recent example here in Berlin is a concert called “Die neuen Deutschpoeten” or “the new German poets”. It is sponsored by public broadcaster Radio Fritz – for the younger audience. So when a radio announces a show like that, especially a mainstream format radio, it raises some eyebrows. And the line-up is indeed catering for a mainstream audience. Fair enough, that’s their job right? To attract a lot of listeners and get fans to fill a venue.
But while these artists may indeed represent a brand of pop musician that has been built over the past few years, they are products of some label executives. Purely labeled to be marketable to some teenagers, or their moms. It’s nothing new, nothing extraordinary or even vile. The music industry just works that way. Pop music has always been a product of subcultures. Think about the hippies and psychedelic rock, hip-hop or reggae – they’ve all sprung from small scenes, cultural or societal developments. If you dig deeper into subcultures in Germany, you come across a range of sensational German bands. Punk and indie alike. And this is where it gets interesting, exciting and yes, alternative, if you want.
Und dann nimmt er deine Hand und geht mit dir ins Watt
And then he takes your hand and walks into the tidelands with you
They all share a sense of place. Turbostaat manage to capture the solitude and brusque breadth of northern Germany. The cross references within their lyrics mirror the landscape, the people and the savoir-vivre of Northerners or seasiders. The music also gets to me. The frail chords and hard-hit guitar notes take you in while also alienating the listener. It’s fascinating, to listen and to read. It’s different, it’s odd, but it will swallow you! Rarely have I felt such a strong sense of place in music. And the cryptic lyrics are creating a really captivating picture too. Highly recommended!
Erfurt ich hasse dich
Erfurt I hate you
Mikrokosmos23 from Erfurt, are one of the bands that really got me going a few years back. Their screamo influenced indie is technical enough to keep your ears listening while speaking to your guts. The music is a little less straight forward than other bands in this list, but changes of rhythm also keep you interested, right? Lyrically they share a similar sense of poetry with the other bands listed here. The sense of place, of their peers, and of their heritage is somehow always present. On their latest record, they sound a little straighter and poppier, but it suits them well!
Dein Bett und ihr Kissen
Your bed and her pillow. Alone again
With one of the albums of 2012 for me, Captain Planet blew me away. It was their third record, and another highlight in the Zeitstrafe roster. The ‘Hot Water Music’ on the list, their gutsy punk from Hamburg is awesome. I highly recommend this to anyone who’s listening to punk or some sort, but I also tried to persuade other friends to give it a listen. Their lyrics are very personal, highly infused by nightlife antics, without falling into clichés or “weallpartyuntilweretodrunkandhavetogohome”-romanticism. Hamburg is definitely present in their narrations. Once you’ve been to the city, you know what I mean.
Und das Neonlicht, es blendet mich
And the neonlight is blinding me
The 1980s were an awful decade, well judging by the horrible music and clothing you see 20-odds dressed up in at 1980s parties these days. And they pop up like mushrooms in any club or discotheque worldwide. But the decade also brought us Post-Punk or Hardcore. Messer definitely draw their inspiration from 1980s bands like Joy Devision or Talking Heads or German indie heroes Ton, Steine, Scherben. I like their attitude, their blank sound, the cold, rumbling bass, the dry guitars. It all just falls into place for me. I highly doubt, Messer will ever spill into some sort of popularity or radio airplay, but they are one of the most fascinating bands around at the moment. A local treasure to savor, to cherish and something that won’t come better from the other side of the atlantic any time soon!
I’ve had the time of my life
Adolar are probably the most university-student band in this list. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad thing at all. I love their music. It’s very rhythm driven. Compared to other bands on this list they are more unconventional in their structures, less in your face and more able to build climaxes. Obviously there are melodies but also destructive distortion, screams and desperation. I think you can feel the cold post-world war II concrete buildings, the half-renovated, half-decayed cities in the former GDR. It’s growing up in that environment just after the wall came down that formed and molded the songwriting and I love Adolar for that. I love them for transmitting that sense of place, the unpleasantry, but also the fuck-off it’s not all that bad. And when you think about the bleak future young adults face everywhere, their music matters even more.
Du wünscht dir Facetime mit Katrin, ich wünsch mir meine Faust in dein Gesicht
You’re hoping for Facetime with Katrin, I’m hoping for my fist in your face
Oh the irony in that line above, the urgent anger, the critique and the simplicity. Love A are raw, they are urgent, they are direct. Like your best friend they don’t try to comfort you when you made a wrong decision, they tell you straight to your face. And when you feel lost, they give you a shoulder not to cry on, but to pull yourself together. Their sound carries a quality that most of the bands in this list share: they connect with you. Sure, you might say a good song can connect to a lot of people, but how close is a pop persona like Lady Gaga or Katy Perry really to you or me? I can’t relate to lyrics about fireworks or poker-faces. And I don’t want to. I want to hear songs about guys or girls that I can relate to without having to translate the mystifying chores of pop idols to my ‘ordinary’ life. Love A do that. And you should love them for that too!
Wenn wir dir zur uncool sind, dann studier doch in Berlin
If we’re too uncool for you, go study in Berlin
Oh the hate in this music, it gives me shivers. Frau Potz manage to deliver a classic punk driven sound with references to life of young adults, counter-culture and everything that pisses young people off. This is the perfect soundtrack to trashing your room, rip all the posters of your sisters favorite pop bands off the wall and get incredibly drunk with your friends just before everybody heads off to new adventures. It’s said that the band is currently on a break and not writing new material or playing shows. Fingers crossed they’ll be back soon!