Arts & Culture

I Forgive the Germans: A Jew’s Primer to Krautrock and Beyond

I’m sure you could surf the internet and find several books, papers, essays, etc. on the theories as to why so many weird sounds (specifically rock n’ roll) came out of post-World War 2 Germany.  I won’t run down the … Read More

By / August 3, 2010

I’m sure you could surf the internet and find several books, papers, essays, etc. on the theories as to why so many weird sounds (specifically rock n’ roll) came out of post-World War 2 Germany.  I won’t run down the list of things I’ve heard, from blaming the psychology of young Germans who grew up during the war to the rambling theory an academic hack once imparted to me, saying the German way to cope with the after effects of war is through subversive artistic output.

In reality, it’s so much more complicated than that, though I don’t think you came here for a thesis.

The first time I felt comfortable embracing German culture was when I heard what has become known as "Krautrock".  When I started listening to groups like Can, Guru Guru, and Tangerine Dream, I felt a connection to a country my family had taught me was wrought with the legacy of brutality.  I was surprised and dismayed at my own delight upon hearing that music, but this was not a feeling I could rationalize away.

This summer, Michael Rother, co-founder of the duo that I consider (along with Can) to be the most important in the entire canon, NEU!, is touring under the name Hallogallo, reviving the music of his former outfit (read a fantastic interview with him here).

For those unfamiliar with NEU!, their first two records (Neu! and Neu! 2, respectively) are some of the most important albums of the last fifty years; from Lenny Kaye of the Patti Smith Band to Public Image Limited, Sonic Youth, Spacemen 3, David Bowie, Brian Eno, and just about every musician who has mattered since the 1970′s would say so.

While there is some debate to exactly what defines "Krautrock," I decided the best course of action would be to give fifteen of the best examples of glorious noise from Post-War Germany, and a few of the people it influenced. 

#1 The Monks, "Monk Chant" live on German television, 1965

While they weren’t German (they were American servicemen deployed there) would anybody in mid-60′s America really appreciate this music? I’m not so sure. Did it have an influence on what was to come? Listen for yourself.

#2 Faust, "It’s a Rainy Day Sunshine Girl"

 

#3 Neu!, "Hallogallo"

#4 Kraftwerk, "Autobahn" I’ve heard people say that Kraftwerk didn’t "rock" so can’t be included on the list of Krautrock artists. I say that’s stupid, and their inclusion is necessary.

#5 Can on German TV, 1971

#6 Can live, 1973

#7 Guru Guru, "Electric Junk"

#8 Cluster & Brian Eno, "Für Luise"

#9 Tangerine Dream, "Lana" from the Risky Business Soundtrack

#10 David Bowie, "Warszawa"

#11 This Heat, "Horizontal Hold"

#12 Public Image Ltd., "Death Disco"

#13 Tortoise, "DJed"

#14 Stereolab, "Revox"

#15 Deerhunter, "Slow Swords"