[16 July 2012]
Thies Mynther and Dirk von Lowtzow clearly had fun when they recorded Pardon My English.
The German duo known as Phantom/Ghost are nothing if not self-deprecating, and they get a certain amount of mileage from charm alone. But it’s rarely enough to counter their more annoying tendencies, even at a scant 37 minutes, as they limit themselves to—in their words—“vocals, piano, and bad acting”. It’s an exercise in (post)modern cabaret, clearly mindful of Weimar antecedents, and with lyrics delivered almost exclusively in distractingly accented English, for which the title might serve as a sort of preemptive apology. A couple tracks add variety in the form of cello, a soft beat and female guest vocals.
Some lyrics are passable, even enjoyable at least insofar as one might enjoy a Teutonic Magnetic Fields stuck permanently in Broadway-parody mode (“There’s nothing to be proud of / And nothing to regret / When you are with the Phantom of the Operette”); other lines are fairly clever (“Do you feel useless and devoid? / Visit Dr. Schaden Freud / I’d advise a discreet tryst / With my favorite therapist”); but then come instances of the silliest songwriting imaginable, verging on knowingly bad (“Follow me in plushy dreams / Everything is what it seems / Fight with me in fluffy storms / Stand at ease in stuffy dorms”). And the actual vocals are as twee as any of the above would suggest.
So one tries to come to terms with Pardon My English in much the same way one attempts to discern the meaning of an overheard in-joke. It sounds like a straight-faced tribute to Kurt Weill, but it also sounds like a group of theater students spent an evening drinking too much Jägermeister and then somehow gained access to a recording studio.