“Falscher Ort Falsche Zeit – Power Pop & Mod Sounds”
„Falscher Ort Falsche Zeit – Power Pop & Mod Sounds from Germany, Austria & Switzerland 1980 – 1990“
Wouldn’t you agree that it is a tad odd that the first review in the new year is that of a compilation made up solely of old stuff? Luckily stuff that is old and yet very good. Usually it would be fair enough to automatically shy away from compilations that the label advertises as “all killer no filler”. However, when it comes to Tapete Records, the people there are not exaggerating in the slightest, as there is genuinely no “filler” to be found anywhere on the “Power Pop & Mod Sounds”-sampler – whilst emphasising the fact that we are talking strictly German, Austrian and Swiss Mod Sounds which are usually not exactly synonymous with coolness or style. This 1979 track by Secret Affair called “Time For Action” was how I was first exposed to so-called Mod-music:
This fairly hectic track was featured on my dearly beloved Arcade-LP, which had stolen the title from Secret Affair – this compilation took a major influence on my perception of music later on (and is in a way responsible for my love of samplers in general) and it would certainly make for one of the three records that I would take to a lonely island, if ever anyone was to ask me about that. “Time For Action” already impressed me as a young listener as it was so fast paced, immediate and in a way urgent – the message was: something has to happen RIGHT NOW! The film “Quadrophenia”, which I still enjoy watching despite the fact that Sting is in it, conveys a similar impression. My favourite song from that movie would have to be “I Am the Sea” by The Who. It is as simple as that: everything remotely to do with Mods (the music, the style, the drugs) is from England – or so I was led to think for a long while until the Mobylettes and Family Five came into my world and later on, naturally, Superpunk.
Mobylettes and Family Five are also featured on “Falscher Ort …” and on top of that a lot of bands that have been shamefully neglected due to their short-lived nature and/or ignorance on part of society, up until Tapete Records helped re-discover them. Whether all of the bands featured on the compilation do in fact fall under the category “Mod” is debatable, however, the term “power pop” is featured on the cover as well, which definitely helps broaden the frame of reference a bit. The time frame is set between 1980 and 1990, which is in fact a tremendously long time in the world of pop music. The characteristic that all the songs on the compilation do have in common is their spirit of being unanimously decidedly indecisive, embodying a charming, fast-paced fuck you! Directed towards any and every limitation in terms of style and genre. Is what we’re playing punk, beat, soul music, ska, new wave or pop music? Who cares, just as long as it is fast and urgent. Prime example of that: “Voran! Voran!” by S-Chords, my favourite. After all it’s about the big picture, which is that of departure, of love, the summer, clothes, hairstyles and going out. Simply put, EVERYTHING that “Der Böse Bub Eugen” revolves around. And it’s about Werner Enke who would have to be an important movie star within the mod-scene, as not only Painting By Numbers (who sound like they were the frontrunners for Lassie Singers and “Die Heiterkeit”) made a song about him as early as 1989; years later “Die Liga der Gewöhnlichen Gentlemen” dedicated a song to him.
With a lot of tracks you can clearly hear the favourite bands of the artists: for instance Orange Juice as an inspiration to Fenton Weills or Dexys Midnight Runners for Dextrin (literally sweet: sugar instead of dextroamphetamin – I have to hand it to them, both things do make you faster). At first I was a little disappointed by the fact that Mobylettes were only represented on the compilation with their cover version of “Da Doo Ron Ron”, on the other hand it seems obvious that a well styled Mod-aficionado knows his or her way around the sound of girlgroups and blue-eyed-soul. Worth mentioning as well, a mod-band from Vienna called The Venue who have up until now only recorded their songs in English – until “Wien ist anders”, on which they sound like the parents to “Ja, Panik”.
Speaking of parents: some of the bands on this sampler are at the verge of turning into something big in the future: “Die Antwort” with a young Bernd Begemann, “Huah!” by and including Knarf Rellöm”, “Family Five” as Peter Hein’s labour of love during and after “Fehlfarben” had ended. Staring straight ahead and wallowing in nostalgia at the same time: long live that precious state in-between, as it seems to release so much energy!
The background stories to some of the bands are also quite shocking: Jakob “Jake” Keusen, drummer of the band “Die Profis” from Düsseldorf (they should have been bigger than Die Toten Hosen, the press release rightly states) was stabbed to death during a rehearsal by a neighbour in 1989. Keusen unfortunately truly was in the wrong place at the wrong time – Tapete Records however, are doing the exactly right thing at the right time by releasing this sampler.
Carsten Friedrichs, formerly part of Superpunk, now an active member of “Die Liga der gewöhnlichen Gentlemen“ has put together this compilation and has done a rather superb job in doing so. You can easily and very pleasantly listen to the record, without feeling insufficiently entertained in the slightest. This might be due to the fact that the sampler – which is in fact rather unusual for this particular type of release – is fairly homogenous in its character, which is, of course, already evident from the sampler’s title. In terms of the compilation’s musical content, The Jam keep on being an apparent musical inspiration or role model, above all for S-Chords who achieve a similar effect of energetic urgency with their track “Voran! Voran!”. A lot of the lyrics to the songs that are featured on this sampler are representative of a perspective on reality which is clearly dominated by the vibrant interim phase of late adolescence. The feeling of genuinely waiting around for life to begin and the determination to reject the seemingly iron-clad rules which are dictated by society. The songs on the compilation outline microscopic observations revolving around first crushes, going out to dance or enjoying the summer. This approach is complemented by songs that follow the traditional values a protest song represents and hold the characteristics they usually exhibit, while thankfully not trying to force any sort of big singular message on the listener. To me, in this case, there are two songs that stand out:
On the one hand that would have to be “Wien ist anders” by The Venue. I cannot help, but wonder how on earth a band would have had the guts to try and start a mod revival in the year 1990, without being able to refer to a contemporary version of it or frankly even fellow contemporary like-minded musicians. The thing that strikes me about the lyrics is the ability to read common insignia pertaining to the world of 1990s fashion as an expression of the attempt to break free from the social background that one inevitably originates from. In that context said song was indeed quite fitting for the year 1990.
The other hit is “Lied für Werner Enke” by Painting By Numbers – an achievement in unparalleled exorbitant grouchy eloquence. Which is not least because of the nonchalance with which it is performed and which is savoured to the fullest. The only thing left to do is to listen to the song over and over again, and allow yourself to be more and more fascinated by it each time you listen to it.
In fact, it would probably be wise not to pick out individual tracks off the compilation, as, as has previously been mentioned, it holds itself to a pretty high standard throughout. Those of you who are old enough to at least have lived through a couple of the years that this compilation covers can on top of its high quality also enjoy the fact that they get to rediscover artists which they most likely have already (almost) forgotten – I do for instance remember a gig by “Stunde X” in the underground bar “Tanzpalast” in Wilhelmshaven, which I must say, was a rather formative experience. What makes it even better, as the bands that can be found on the collection mostly failed to achieve levels of popularity that would be worth mentioning. Being featured in an article in Spex in the section “fast & fleeting” was quite possibly the pinnacle of their individual success for most of those bands. This circumstance is mainly to be blamed on the fact that above all the mid-1980s were to a great deal still under the influence of “the aftermath” of German new wave, meaning that the audience was primarily done with German music for that moment. The market for German music was saturated and on top of that “ancient” German acts like Grönemeyer, Maffay, Westernhagen and Lindenberg and their respective success blocked out smaller acts. Which was a shame, as, as this compilation demonstrates clearly, a lot of the bands on this sampler manage to overcome the German new wave clichés of a sense of doom on the one hand and exaggerated silliness on the other winningly in favour of an individualistic, youthful perspective on life between the years 1980 and 1990.