Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Rammstein: Reise, Reise, Amerika, Coca-Cola, Wonderbra

Intelligent industrial metal German band Rammstein's album "Reise, Reise" has become one of my favorite listens. Their strong chords, striking imagery and wry humor combine to create powerful images in the mind.

The songs have been excellently translated over at the Rammstein fan site These translations are used in the notes that follow.(Ich verstehe Deutsch, aber mein Deutsch ist nicht gut, dass genug, gute √úbersetzungen von diesen Liedern zu versorgen)

The first song, "Reise, Reise" deals with a battle of the sea, between seamen, fishes and humans - a call to arms.
Even on the waves there is fighting
Where fish and flesh are woven into sea
One stabs the lance while in the army
Another throws it into the ocean

"Mein Tell", or "my part" is a hard-driving metal thrasher with an unusual theme, a willing human victim to a butcher - based on the real life case of Jurgen Brandes, who was willingly slaughtered by Armin Meiwes. The song was used in "Resident Evil 2:Apocalypse"
Today I will meet a gentleman
He likes me so much he could eat me up
Soft parts and even hard ones
are on the menu

The song "Dalai Lama" is replete with mystical meaning. Nominally, it is about a little boy on an airplane who is feeling afraid, and about the fear of flying. The current Dalai Lama is himself afraid of flying. The song also draws on the rich tradition of lieder such as Schubert's "Erlkonig" based on Goethe's poem "Der Erlkonig"(The Erl King) about a little child haunted by a sinister being, an omen of death - this tale itself is as old as the Jewish tale of Lilith, and later medieval tales of the Elf King.
Onwards, onwards into destruction
We must live until we die
Humans don't belong in the sky
So the lord in Heaven calls
his sons to the wind
Bring me this human child

The next song "Keine Lust" or "Don't Feel Like It" is about the extinguishing of desire, of all forms, turning the individual into a listless, jaded, soul. A typical feeling in such a state is the inability to experience sexual desire, captured in this song as well.
I don't feel like not hating myself
Don't feel like touching myself
I would feel like masturbating
Don't feel like trying it
I would feel like getting undressed
Don't feel like seeing myself naked
...I'll just keep lying here
and I'll count the flies again
I listlessly touch myself
and notice I've been frigid for a long time already
So frigid, I'm cold . . .

The song "Los" or "Less" is a social protest song giving voice to the nameless, speechless, powerless, wordless - a catchy rhythm and beat permeates this song, and the tempo is pretty good too.
We were nameless
We have a name
We were wordless
The words came
Still we are
a little songless
Yet we're not toneless
You do hear it
We aren't flawless
Just a bit anchorless
You will become soundless
You'll never get rid of us

The next song "Amerika" (spelt that way) is a wry look at globalization, American-style
We're all living in America
America is wonderful
We're all living in America
America, America

When there's dancing I want to lead
even if you're whirling around alone
Let yourselves be controlled a little
I'll show you how it really goes
We're making a nice round dance
Freedom is playing on all violins
Music is coming out of the White House
and Mickey Mouse is standing in front of Paris
We're all living in America
Coca-Cola, Wonderbra
We're all living in America
America, America
...We're all living in America
Coca-Cola, sometimes war
We're all living in America
America, America

The 'freedom playing on all violins is particularly apposite, given Mr Bush's inagural speech.

The next song is about 'Moskau'(Moscow), 'the most beautiful city in the world'. Some striking images about this uber-city abound, along with a Russian backing track that fits quite well with the theme.
She is old and nevertheless beautiful
I can't resist her
I can't resist
She powders her old skin
and has gotten her breasts rebuilt
She makes me horny I suffer torment
She dances for me I have to pay
I have to pay
She sleeps with me but only for money
It's still the most beautiful city in the world

A couple of ballads also feature on the album, including one of my favorite songs on this record, "Amour" with vivid imagery,
Love is a wild animal
It breathes you it looks for you
It nests upon broken hearts
and goes hunting when there are kisses and candles
It sucks tightly on your lips
and digs tunnels through your ribs
It drops softly like snow
First it gets hot then cold in the end it hurts
Amour Amour
Everyone just wants to tame you
Amour Amour in the end
caught between your teeth

The band is often accused of a sort of crypto-fascism, primarily because of their hard-driving tonalities and imagery, but even a close reading of any of their songs does not bring out any such theme. One of the band members commented, "...The German media sometimes gets carried away with such things. There was even one critic who said that the way Till rolls his 'r's' when he sings is supposed to mimic the way that Hitler used to speak! How silly can they get. We've never written a political song in our life, and we probably never will. It's just reverse discrimination because we are German. Kraftwerk had the same thing happen to them twenty years ago. If we were Spanish or Dutch, there would be no problem."

The band last toured in the United States in 2001, after the release of their album "Mutter". They tour in Europe this year. This is a good, dark, Germanic album.

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