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Various Artists

The In-Kraut Vol. 2

Hip Shaking Grooves Made in Germany 1967-1974

(Marina; US: 21 Nov 2006; UK: 30 Oct 2006)

Achtung, Baby!

Goading horn sections, sitars, irony-free emulations of American soul and sweat, orgasmic moans from the fringes of a Serge Gainsbourg-esque disposition: such are the things one would not typically expect from the pop music of Germany.  No offense, Germany, but learning that you have not only indulged in but created life-affirming, groove-conscious pop music is like learning that James Bond TiVos Desperate Housewives.


Pop music happens everywhere, however, happens at the insistence of a snare drum’s snap and to the delight of liberated torsos in search of a purpose, happens even in Germany. Last year, the German label Marina Records offered up proof with The In-Kraut, a compilation of rare tracks from decades past that doubled as a secret history from a certain basement hallway in some clandestine chamber of pop-music history. Compilations such as these transcend our ambitious, collective desire to locate between-the-cracks pop oddities; they remind us that, indeed, the strangest things often emerge from the least likely of places.


And they keep emerging: The In-Kraut Vol. 2: Hip Shaking Grooves Made in Germany 1967-1974 follows its predecessor with 20 more improbable and rare sides of tight-combo garage funk (Paul Nero’s “This Is Soul”), acid-curious marching-band bravado (“Soul March” by James Last, who allegedly released over 200 albums), proto-drum ‘n’ bass cyclones (Joy & the Hit Kids’ “Run Away”, whose singer, Joy Fleming, was dubbed “the German Janis Joplin”), wicked Hammond organ grooveploitations (Dieter Reith’s “No No No”), and the requisite swingin’ big-band cover of a Deep Purple song, natch (that would be “Black Night”, performed here with the unperturbed daring of Hugo Stragger’s orchestra). Lots of the music featured on The In-Kraut Vol. 2 is being issued on CD for the very first time; some songs are out-of-print 7” b-sides or especially deep cuts from smaller German labels, others were commissioned for the soundtracks to films and TV shows, and others still, like Rolf Wilhelm’s sexually-charged TV theme “Do It Yourself” and Carlos Fendeira’s sitar-dominant “Gimmi Moro”, have never been released in any form.


Many of the tracks boasting overeager horn sections and skull-cracking drum kits, such as Kai Rautenberg & Orchester Jürgen Ehlers’s “Moon Mission” and “Eine Kleine Hasenmusik” by Hase Cäsar (without a doubt the funkiest rabbit hand puppet to grace German television), are the kinds you begin to anticipate throughout the collection. They all exist in a likeable realm of pop-cultural guilty pleasure, a place where cartoons, bad cop shows from the ‘70s, and The Price Is Right all intersect and make some kind of unfashionable sense. Christer Bladin’s “Wildkatze”, which follows the same effervescent formula but makes the charming addition of German-language vocals, verbalizes that unfashionable sense with sing-a-long chutzpah. The Inner Space (which is, in fact, the seminal krautrock band Can before it changed its name and its sound) avoids camp altogether and simply co-opts the Velvet Underground’s “Sunday Morning”, with the help of Rosy Rosy’s breathy vocals and a glockenspiel.


It’s all tremendous fun and tremendously startling in its surrender of zeitgeist-proximate ephemera. Occasionally, even, we can be taken outside of the incongruous Americanizations and shown something truly foreign, something so high-flyingly extraterrestrial in spirit that it rejects its cultural surroundings even while reflecting them. Mary Roos’s “Blauer Montag” (translated as “Blue Monday”, but it’s not that “Blue Monday” or that other “Blue Monday”) isn’t one of the greatest songs from its era, but it’s a product of its own orbit, swimming amidst the propulsive rhythm section and happy-hour background harmonies, informed by the Atlantic-crossing good vibrations in only the most intrinsic of ways.

Rating:

Zeth Lundy has been writing for PopMatters since 2004. He is the author of Songs in the Key of Life (Continuum, 2007), and has contributed to the Boston Phoenix, Metro Boston, and The Oxford American. He lives in Boston.


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