NOW WITH CORRECTED SPELLING!!!
A couple of weeks ago we had a small requiem for Klaus Dinger round my sister’s house. It was brief and quite poorly attended, consisting basically of me and my brother in law,* listening to a selection from Neu 75, Dusseldorf by La Dusseldorf and then err.. the entirety of “Radioctivity” by Kraftwerk while waxing drunkenly lyrical about the Krauts, shite at winning wars, being funny and losing on penalties, brilliant at self-righteous nitpicking and producing the greatest music and literature of all time etc. Interestingly, my Broinlaw’s (a new portmanteau rendering of the otherwise time consumingly hyphenated brother-in-law) top five included “Autobahn” (it was all-Kraut-die-ganze-Zeit, except for Led Zeppelin,**) whereas mine was basically all, well, err, ahem, literate rock, as it went. You know, the singer as storyteller, the song as surrogate literature, maturity, progression, a memorable chorus, attitude, authenticity. I almost had myself drummed out of the blogosphere in a lather of self-denunciation before the Nu-Rockist Big Other!) But it did strike me that a kind of decreasingly realist trinity could be formed form La Dusseldorf’s “Dusseldorf”, Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn” and “Isi,” three different senses of momentum through three radically different landscapes. “Dusseldorf” is a decidedly terrestrial affair, with its crowd sounds, it’s anthemic Civic-pride synth riff, Metropolitan and concrete, “Autobahn” already shimmers and glistens out into a more abstracted, hyperreal vision of the delights of the car and the future, the more solid forms of “Dusseldorf” already beginning to take on an irradiated, impressionistic sheen, premonitory of a kind of (now considered) impossible “liquid modernism,” just over the horizon, a utopian resolution which heralds the intensely exhilarating race for the stars of “Isi.”
They’re all cinematic tracks, all travelogues, the first two using sound diegeticly to locate us within a particular world, “Dusseldorf” has an airplane arriving over the background crackle of an airport, “Autobahn” the sound of a car door slamming and an engine starting up, but with “Isi” there are no referents, it simply arrives (or is ushered in), hovers for a moment then hits warp drive, the constellations wheel around us, ribbons of nebula drift into view, scintillate and are left behind, it’s as though the Futurist dream has been achieved at last: endless, frictionless propulsion. There’s a decreasing grit, traction and infrastructure to the three, until “Isi” is plumbing deep space, if the others are vehicular, “ Isi” is movement itself, the pure form, there is no diegetic frame, we’re witnesses, not passengers. A part of this is down to the rhythmic undercarriage of each track, Dusseldorf’s is kept low down in the mix, stadium rock tubthumping, dry, “Autobahn’s” alternately sharp and dull pistoning drum pattern still has a hint of steam and sprocket, while oddly on “Isi” it’s Dinger who somehow manages to seem post-technological, a set of adamantine wheels spinning within wheels.
But all of this is merely a preface to what I really want to talk about, which is stoner rock in one way, but also partially the notion that songs are dramatic forms.
Which will be the next post.***
*although, actually, we should have invited my dad downstairs. On a trip to Paris last year I took the opportunity to Wyatt my own father (never let it be said that age, infirmity or, pah! emotional/familial ties are sufficient to deflect the Wyatter from his true aim: to annoy!) subjecting him via the in-car CD player to a random assortment of old nonsense grabbed at the last minute. Didn’t matter what it was, his grizzled response was the same, a grimace of disbelief and the question, “Did you pay money for this, son?” Or, on being asked if he liked it, a contemptuous chuckle and shrug of the shoulders. Didn’t matter what it was. Robert Palmer’s “Clues” (actually a bit of auto-Wyatting going on there) Sam Cooke’s “Night Music”, The Mahavishnu Orchestra’s “Apocalypse” even the extraordinarily life affirming beauty of “ Soweta is where it’s at” by Dollar Brand (another track which uses diegetic tricks to rather brilliant emotional-tone-establishing effect it occurs to me, with it’s opening of a baby crying. (isn’t there another Dollar Brand track that opens with a rumble of thunder?) basically coming on like the south African musical equivalent of “man with a movie camera”) a track whose epic, dazzling lyricism is capable of bringing tears to the eyes was considered “Bloody awful.” Yet strangely when we stuck on “Flammende Herzen,” by Michael Rother he started tapping his finger on the back of the seat and at the end of the first track managed: “ Not bad that, son. We’ll listen to this one again on the way home." Which we duly did, zooming along the empty, early morning autoroute in quite contentment.
**Can’t stand ‘em myself. Robert Plant! Turn down the abrasively shrill sex god theatrics on that voice will you mate. Ye (hammer of the) gods! The sonic equivalent of being forced to wear an unbearably florid paisley-shirt lined with sandpaper and reeking of week-old cum.
***Unless I type up that thing I wrote on the plane last week first. Or get horribly sidetracked.