Heiko Voss: Two Sides

Tim O'Neil

Two Sides undoubtedly represents a committed personal statement for Herr Voss. It's just not a very focused statement.

Heiko Voss

Two Sides

Label: Firm
US Release Date: Available as import
UK Release Date: 2005-09-05

Two Sides begins with four minutes of spoken German. I can't speak German, so I have no idea what the parties are saying. If I had to guess I would probably say that the dialogue is some sort of personal statement on the part of Herr Heiko Voss, for whom Two Sides undoubtedly represents a committed personal statement. It's just not a very focused statement.

Although Kompakt distributes German label Firm's output, don't be fooled into thinking Heiko Voss is a plinkety-plonk techno artist. Voss has some electronic tricks in his bag but he's just as likely to pull out an acoustic guitar or a schmaltzy Vegas-style mini-orchestra as a boompty-boomp beat. Quite frankly, this album is so diverse that to refer to it as "all over the map" would be an insult to the map -- this is all over the hemisphere.

After the talking, the album kicks off like a Prince cover of "World in My Eyes", as weird (or not) as that may sound. "Beatmachine" showcases Voss' off-kilter English vocals over a lazy synthpop rhythm that barely registers above languid -- I don't know if he's really serious about "[making] your body boogie", because this track barely registers above a Charleston. (It doesn't help that he pronounces "boogie" like he's a ghost, with an elongated first syllable that sounds like he's trying to say "booger".)

It improves slightly with "Call Me Now", which has an ominous, well-defined bassline and spry beat that finally begins to make good on the promise to boogie. It reminds me slightly of Richard Davis, albeit with less of an appealingly frosty vibe. "More Than Music" appears to be an attempt at hip-hop that comes off like U2's "Numb" as performed by Dieter from Sprockets. To say that his funky come-ons are unconvincing would be a grave understatement.

And then the album swerves 180 degrees to the land of pastoral acoustic pop, with "Like Glue". It's a bit like jumping into a bitterly cold pool after sitting in a hot tub for any length of time -- certainly a bracing dichotomy, but not entirely pleasant. The lyrics could probably best be described as poor, in any event: "I'd like to be close to you, / I'd love to be close to you, / Oh, I'm sticking with you like glue." Repeat that with minor variations for the better part of three minutes. And then we've got another mid-tempo wannabe-Prince funk jam in the form of "Sitting in My Song".

This same pattern is repeated throughout the album, regardless of however bizarre the genre-hopping seems to the listener. "Think About You (First Version)" even features Voss' voice chopped & screwed -- slowed down -- to match a generic disco-type beat. Just odd. The closest the album comes to gaining momentum is on strange tracks like "A Track Called Catarina", which embrace Voss' multi-generic impulses to create something which, if not legitimately good, is at least mildly interesting.

As such, I can't say there aren't a few interesting ideas floating around on Two Sides -- the guitar rhythm on "Part of My World" is appealingly chunky and funky, "Telephon" is a fairly ingenious pastiche of mid-era Depeche Mode -- but the album is so diverse, and so woefully underdeveloped, that the few good ideas have no room to develop surrounded at every side by the bad, the misguided or just plain strange. I understand the urge to be eclectic and wide-ranging, but most artists who manage to pull off diversity have the concentration necessary to devote enough attention to every element. There's not a track on Two Sides that doesn't taste like it should have been left in the oven another 10 minutes or so.


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

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

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

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

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
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

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