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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tonträger: 60's Rock and Roll goes Krautward

The Berlin Wall performed more than just the geographical slicing of Berlin, it also neatly divided two distinct cultures, philosophies, and political ideologies for almost 30 years. During the Soviet stranglehold of the East, counter-cultural punk and rock bands rose, influenced by their Western counterparts, whom they viewed illicitly on banned radio and TV stations - and with more to fight against, namely the systematic pulverization of privacy by the government, they were arguably more authentic. After the Wall fell, the cultural vacuum kicked in. German punk became so ubiquitous it is now a tired cultural cliché.

America's powerful cultural influence on Germany continues to this day, but with Tonträger, a Berlin-based indie classic rock 'n' roll band, that inspiration reaches way back to rock's roots:

"Rock 'n' Roll" is often confused with our umbrella term "alternative rock" (though "alternative" rock, ironically, is almost certainly the norm these days, at least as far as rock goes), though what you should be thinking about is Elvis and the Beatles. That's the rock that changed music.

Tonträger gleefully grabs handfulls of a capella, Presley, Lennon/McCartney/et. al., and jams them together in an unabashedly chipper fashion. I'm no musicologist, but they're dipping their chords far deeper than punk. And as far as I'm concerned, German music, the charts usually populated with soulless electro-nonsense, is better for it.

I only wish my German was better - it's clear their lyrics are plays on words folded on riddles, twisted into rhymes. I can only enjoy the tunes. Their rock 'n' roll is more authentic than America's has been since before the Wall went up.

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