Throw Out All Your Fancy 1960s Serge Gainsbourg Frenchie Records And Get Hip To Germany’s Neue Deutsche Welle AKA New Wave Instead
Hipsters, stop trying to make 1960s France happen. You keep telling us that there are gems of musical genius there waiting to be discovered, but you’re not fooling anyone. Once upon a time Paris was the capital of cool, but as far as music goes they haven’t produced shit in the last fifty years. Yes, we know Serge Gainsbourg smoked a lot of Gauloises and banged beaucoup women, but you know what? His music sucked. So stop releasing movies and books about the dude.
And the so-called yé-yé girls? They sucked too. Oui oui, the songs are filled with saucy double-entendres which were very daring in 1966, but it isn’t 1966 anymore. We want more than titillation from doe-eyed starlets who couldn’t sing their way out of a sac en papier. We want melodies and guitars and decent beats. If you put together the entire discographies of Jane Birkin, Marie LaForet, Sylvie Vartan, France Gall, and Francoise Hardy, they couldn’t come up with one compilation album of memorable songs.
Which brings us to Germany. We know, we know. You were hip to Kraftwerk. You were into them ever since Autobahn, before they were cool. And you know all about Krautrock. You have listened to, or at least heard of Tangerine Dream, Can, and Neu. That’s not what we’re talking about here.
We’re talking about Neue Deutsche Welle, the name all the cool Jungen und Mädchen used for NEW WAVE in (then) West Germany. In the early 1980s, West Germany produced a body of music that by all rights should have forever displaced France as a center of cool. Unfortunately, only a few songs about Luftballoons and Komissars ever crossed over to the English-speaking countries, leaving an unfortunate (but not entirely unjustified) impression of novelty rock and Dieter-esque pretention. If there’s any period of music just waiting to be re-discovered by hipsters, it’s the NDW of 80’s Germany.
Witness Exhibit A. The name of this band is Ideal. The singer is Annette Humpe, and she has been making music, some good, some bad, for the last 30 or so years. Admit it: her voice is at least as sexy as Chrissie Hynde’s.
Exhibit Zwei. DAF (Deutsch-amerikanische Freundschaft). This song got some love from US college radio back in the day. Look how badass they were! Dance the Mussolini!
And on the other side of the musical spectrum, here is pre-“99 Luftballoona” Nena’s band Stripes playing some decent Blondie-esque bubble-gum pop.
We haven’t even included better-known acts like X-Mal Deutschland, Falco, Grauzone and Nina Hagen.
So suck it, 60’s France. You had some great movie directors, but when it comes to music 80’s Germany kicked your ass just like the Franco-Prussian War.