Aus grauer Städte Mauern - German Post-Punk and New Wave 1979 - '83

(Click on the picture to download.)

Lately I've been exploring the German post-punk underground, mainly via such great blogs as
Dorfdisco Braunsfeld, Not Rock On, Brotbeutel, Mutant Sounds and the now sadly deleted Mein Walkman ist kaputt, Planet New Wave and Hiboux Choux Genoux. It was was both fun and fascinating to hear so many songs I remember from my childhood for the first time in years, only this time within a whole new context, while also discovering artists who I'd never heard of before or had only read about.

Almost half the tracks come from the two disc compilation UntergruNDW - Die wahre deutsche Welle. It actually does a pretty decent job of providing an overview of the better known German post-punk and new wave acts. But it also includes a few pretty forgettable bandwagon jumpers and also-rans as well as tracks from albums and singles still available at the above mentioned blogs. Special thanks go to Rich from whose blog Mein Walkman ist kaputt comes the second largest chunk of tracks.

ere's the NDW chapter of Simon Reynold's post-punk book Rip It Up And Start Again that provides some basic context and information on important bands like Fehlfarben, Der Plan, Palais Schaumburg and X-Mal Deutschland.

01. Kosmonautentraum - Kosmonautentraum (1980)
As both a fanzine editor and musician, Ziggy XY was actually one of the more important figures of the Hamburg/Hannover scene. His main outlet was Kosmonautentraum, a project with a revolving cast of collaborators. Ranging in style from new wave and proto-goth to assaultive lo-fi industrial, most Kosmonautentraum records are frustratingly uneven and for every stroke of genius you'll get two stinkers. Case in point being the ultra-rare self-released debut EP Der Deutsche: this track is great, while I'm quite happy never having to listen to the other two again.

02. Der moderne Man - Heute (1980)
Taken from the first LP 80 Tage auf See. It's actually not that great, one of the reasons probably being that then-singer Ziggy XY's more experimental leanings started to be at odds with the new wave sound the rest of the group was aiming for. Still, I'm quite fond of this slight, yet lovely little instrumental which owes a good deal of its motorik quality to Neu! You can get the quite enjoyable second album Unmodern (recorded after Ziggy XY had quit) over here.

03. Rheingold - Fluß (1980)
Being the first German new wave/Neue Deutsche Welle band to have a substantial hit with Dreiklangdimensionen in 1980, Rheingold weren't really a part of the underground scene. Instead, the band was founded by two Kraftwerk-enthused studio pros, who had been making music since the mid seventies. Upon hearing the selftitled debut again, I was quite surprised how much it's indebted to the Krautrock of Neu!, Harmonia and late Cluster. Lothar Manteuffel and Bodo Steiger, Rheingold's principle songwriters, resurfaced again in the nineties, being involved in new projects by ex-Kraftwerk members Karl Bartos and Wolfgang Flür.

04. Der Plan - Gummitwist (1983)
Not only one of the essential bands of the German post-punk underground, Der Plan also produced some of the most original, funny and inventive electronic art-pop ever. Their albums Geri Reig and Normalette Surprise are still in print and can be ordered over here.

05. Deutsche Schäferhunde - Mein Herz (1982)
It's really amazing how much DIY activity in the German provinces was spured by the post-punk scenes of Hamburg, Berlin or Düsseldorf. This synth foursome hailed from Eggstätt, a small town near Munich, and recorded and self-released only one single. The hard-hitting sound of their three tracks is quite impressive for a DIY release, but to my ears this is the only one that stood the test of time.

06. Monopol - Weißes Haus (1982)
Not much info out their on this three-piece, consisting of two keyboardists/vocalists and a singing ex-model. The elegaic and beautiful Weißes Haus is definitely the standout track on their only LP Weltweit, a solid minimal synth-pop album marred by dumb lyrics and slightly grating vocals.

07. Front - Polaroid (1981)
Great, slightly dub-inflected punk-funk by this band from Hamburg. They split up after releasing two singles on the important independent label ZickZack, with drummer Ralf Hertwig joining Palais Schaumburg. Brotbeutel has both 7inches plus a song from the ZickZack Sommerhits compilation.

08. Geisterfahrer - Himmel auf Erden (1981)
One of the most important bands of the Hamburg/Hannover scene and one of many projects involving prolific scene-shaker Matthias Schuster. For my money, Himmel auf Erden is simply one of the best post-punk songs ever. Geisterfahrer's first two records, Schatten voraus and Fest der vielen Sinne, have been re-issued on Plasticfrog Records.

09. Wirtschaftswunder - Der große Mafioso (1982)
One of several bands and projects involving the super-prolific Tom Dokupil (others being Die Radierer, Siluetes 61 and Die Partei), Wirtschaftswunder's songs encompassed a range from all-out wackiness bordering on the demented to slight and endearing kookiness. This track is more on the side of the latter and even reached the lower regions of the charts.

10. Fehlfarben - Die wilde 13 (1981)
One of the most important and popular German post-punk bands. Their first album Monarchie und Alltag is regularily being tauted as one of the best German rock albums ever. I personally think that they became more interesting on their two subsequent records, even though guitarist Thomas Schwebel is a considerably less charismatic singer than original frontman Peter Hein, who had left the band after the debut. Die wilde 13 is taken from the criminally underrated second LP Dreißig Tage in Ketten.

11. Trio - Los, Paul! (1981)
This bunch is an interesting case. Already well into their thirties, these pros with a background in British invasion-style r&b and Krautrock were far too old to be part of anybody's Neue Welle. Actually, Trio was a conscious effort to cash in on the popularity of (more or less) new wave inflected German-language pop at the time. But while almost everything they subsequently recorded is pretty vomitous, they managed to get everything right on their selftitled first album, a superb collection of ultra-minimalist, stoic pop songs and equally minimalist, punky thrashers.

12. Große Freiheit - Ein Mann zuviel (1983)
More quirkiness from this short-lived project (they recorded only two 12" singles), a bit similiar to Wirtschaftswunder. The lyrics deal with the problems arising when there's one guy too many at the barbecue... (Go to Not Rock On for the Moschusfunktion 12".)

13. Konec - Tanze (1982)
Strangely, while this track is featured on quite a few NDW compilations, there's zero info on the band out there. Jagged, dubby wave-funk with detached female vocals, surprisingly enough released on the major label Polydor.

14. X-Mal Deutschland - Incubus, Succubus (1982)
Sort of the signature tune of this all female band. The later, mostly English-language records are fairly uninteresting goth-pop, but the early stuff is fantastic in an early Banshees kinda way.

15. Joachim Witt - Tri Tra Trullala (1982)
A seventies psych-rocker turned eighties new waver, Witt managed to find the right balance between experimentalism and charts-appeal. Produced by Conny Plank's engineer René Tinner and featuring Can's Jaki Liebezeit on drums,
Tri Tra Trullala is driving, motorik synth pop that occupies a middle ground between new wave and La Düsseldorf or Neu!'s more pop-oriented moments. Don't bother with anything he released since his comeback in the nineties though, it's all daft sub-Rammstein ebm metal.

16. Grauzone - Eisbär (1981)
Actually a Swiss band, but Eisbär (like most of their material) sounds totally NDW and is featured on countless Neue Deutsche Welle compilations. It was a huge hit in Austria, which is quite a surprise considering the cold, skeletal sound. Amazing production, too, on this track. The Sunrise Tapes collects everything they ever released and comes highly recommended.

17. Mannschreck - Where Have All The Good Times Gone (1980)
A charming version of a Kinks song by this new wave project from Stuttgart, taken from the otherwise pretty lackluster debut 12" 80-8. Get the later and far superior EP Ou-Wou-Wou at Mutant Sounds.

18. Lost Gringos - Bargeld Amore (1983)
Thanks to Jörg from Not Rock On for this one. Go over to his blog for more info and the EP Troca Troca.

19. Die Doraus & Die Marinas - Kleines Stubenmädchen (1982)
Andreas Dorau is probably one of the artists on this compilation who don't need much of an introduction. His Fred vom Jupiter is a masterpiece of DIY pop and not only hugely popular in Germany, Austria and the German-speaking part of Switzerland to this day, but it was even a favourite with New York's downtown club scene. Dorau is still making incredibly charming and funny music and all his albums are available on Ata Tak. Kleines Stubenmädchen was the b-side of the Tulpen und Narzissen 7" and has never been reiussed.

20. The Tanzdiele - Candy (1981)
Endlessly listenable, catchy new wave pop, culled from this studio project's only LP Folgt den Führern. Mutant Sounds also posted a brilliant live album by follow-up band The Tanzdiebe. Mainman Piet Klocke is currently enjoying a second career as a pretty popular stand-up comedian, by the way.

21. Palais Schaumburg - Telephon (1981)
Everything this punk-jazz outfit from Hamburg released up to (and, in my opinion, including) their vastly underrated second album Lupa is essential. This non-LP track from their second single Telephon/Kinder der Tod is decidedly more stripped down and synth-popish (albeit in a pretty leftfield way) than the later stuff and it's also one of their most immediately enjoyable and charming songs.

22. Pyrolator - Max (1981)
A founding member of Der Plan and DAF whose proto-sampledelic leftfield electro-pop, a combination of synths, post-industrial rhythms and dense tape-collages, was totally ahead of its time. Ata Tak's most important artist besides Der Plan and Andreas Dorau and his albums Inland, Ausland and Wunderland can be ordered here.

23. Felix Kubin - 2 (2005)
A track from the Idiotenmusik 7", another one I got from Mein Walkman ist kaputt. Kubin, a self-confessed dadaist, started producing his hyperactive, deranged electronica in the early eighties when he got his first Korg synthesizer at age 13. I'm obviously cheating a bit here by including a 2005 release, but it's a superb track and since Idiotenmusik is a sort of homage to Kubin's earliest tape releases it's okay, I guess.

24. Teja - Säuren ätzen und zersetzen (1980)
This wild piece of noisy proto-electronica is another astonishing one-off project. According to the comments on Mein Walkman ist kaputt, Teja Schmitz was a young hairdresser and early member of the Düsseldorf punk scene, who recorded and self-released his sole 7" single mainly just because it was hip to have put out your own record. The B-side, Studieren, is far less memorable as it's pretty much in the vein of the typical demented synth noisery of the time. This track though still sounds pretty eerie and impossible to categorize. The title translates as Acids Etch And Corrode and it couldn't be more fitting.


Poison Creeper said...

hey! nice to meet you, great blog :)) will be linking it into mine very useful and interesting :))

Zero G Sound said...

Thanks a lot for this compilation. You are running an interesting blog, will add you to my link list.


square dancer said...

Glad you like the blog, guys, and thanks a lot for adding me to your links. Greetz!

Anonymous said...

great compilations, many thanks!

Einar said...

Thanks so much for these great compilations. Would be great if you could post some complete albums, too! I'm especially interested in Neubauten related bands.

square dancer said...

Hi, Einar! There are some albums and EP's forthcoming, including some Neubauten related things.

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