Music

Massiv in Mensch: Clubber Lang

Clubber Lang is the closest Massiv in Mensch has ever come to a pop masterpiece, but don't count on crossover success for the German electronic duo.


Massiv in Mensch

Clubber Lang

Label: Artoffact
US Release Date: 2006-05-30
UK Release Date: Unavailable
Amazon
iTunes

For better and for worse, Clubber Lang, the latest album by the German electronic duo Massiv in Mensch, is a wonderful example of 21st century dance music. The good parts of the album are its interesting sounds, compelling melodies, and tight, intricate production. The bad part is that the only people who are likely to possess the patience and listening experience necessary to appreciate the album's virtues are dance music fans.

Over the course of four albums, Massiv in Mensch has established itself as an influential presence on the world dance music scene. The duo has gained a reputation based on meticulous production and offbeat experimentalism. Both these traits are on display on Clubber Lang. Although the music takes a few listens to fully absorb, the album eventually reveals itself to be a skillful and interesting set of songs.

Clubber Lang opens with the relatively brief, "In Mensch" and quickly plunges into the album's first highlight, a cover of "Sunday, Bloody, Sunday". Listeners who are accustomed to hearing Bono deliver this song will probably initially find the song disconcerting. Repeated patient listens will eventually demonstrate that the cover is actually quite effective. Bono's plaintive cry is replaced by the snarl of Sven Enzelmann of the Promise, who plays up the sinister elements of the song. The result is a track that is at once more danceable and more frightening than the original.

After the U2 cover, Massiv in Mensch begins to sound more free. The fourth track "Menschdefekt", which shares a name with the last Massiv in Mensch album, is a nod to the band's fans. The fifth track, "Klang der Unsterblichkeit", is more upbeat and driving than any of the previous songs, while the song that follows it, "Hass Kot (Reloaded)" is twitchy, sinister, and noisy. As listeners progress through the album, they will begin to notice that the tracks are actually songs, complete with significant lyrics and catchy melodies. Calling Clubber Lang a pop record is definitely a stretch, but the album is definitely much more accessible than much of the music that comes from Massiv in Mensch's ebm/dark rave scene.

On the title track, Massiv in Mensch's experimentalism is in full force. The beat moves from being steadily driving to dizzyingly hyper, and the background includes police sirens, jazzy horns, and German and English lyrics. The most straightforward pop songs on the album follow the title track. "Green" has a standard dance beat that echoes the simple vocal melody. "Around My Heart" features the talents of Anna-Maria Straatman, whose voice is appropriately seductive yet confident. Near the end of the album, Massiv in Mensch shows its familiar dark side, delivering the unsettling "Bitterfeld" and the aggressive "History", and the pounding "Toast".

Clubber Lang is a dance fan's dream. It is tight, technologically advanced, and tonally diverse. Although a group's turn to a more pop-oriented sound sometimes leads diehard fans to cry sellout, chances are that electronic fans will welcome Massiv in Mensch's newfound accessibility in the hopes that Clubber Lang will earn the Germans a wider mainstream audience. Unfortunately, these hopes are probably in vain. Yes, the album is melodic and catchy, but it is melodic for an ebm outfit, and catchy for an underground dance record. To understand Massiv in Mensch's significance, one must be familiar with alternative dance music, and most fans of pop music are not. Further compounding Massiv in Mensch's problems is the fact that many pop music fans will be resistant to German dark humor, no matter how upbeat or catchy it may be. Whether or not any of these judgments are fair is a matter for another discussion. For the time being, dance and electronic fans should be thrilled to have an excellent new record to listen to, and everyone else should take Clubber Lang for a spin to see if Massiv in Mensch's musical sensibilities are consistent with their own.

6

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image