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'80s Neue Deutsche Welle

by Chuck Eddy

'80s Neue Deutsche Welle

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What Krautrock was to Germany in the early '70s, "Neue Deutsche Welle" -- "New German Wave" auf Englisch -- was in the early '80s. Three decades later, the ephemeral Teutonic subgenre is still barely acknowledged in the Western Hemisphere. But back then, hip record stores in cities like Frankfurt and Bad Kreuznach (where I lived at the time) inevitably devoted a section to the style. And boy did those records look weird: Mysterious outfits like Der Plan and Pyrolator clearly ran in Dadaistic artistic circles. And they sounded even stranger.

The closest equivalents in English-as-first-language locales would probably be so-called "post-punk" and "no wave," but Germany already had its own avant-garde rock tradition to build on. So robotic motorik drones definitely figured in, but there was also plenty of dub, sound collage, mechanical funk, metal object-banging, and Residents-like Martian-chipmunk silliness going on, sometimes in the service of really catchy tunes. If that sounds unfathomable, check the super-cute alien-handclap chorus of "Fred Vom Jupiter" by Die Doraus Und Die Marinas, which opens this 25-song mix. It’s one of several songs here that also once appeared on Cachalot Records’ now-long-gone but definitive vinyl 1982 N.D.W. compilation Deutschland Deutschland.

Goose-step-rhythmic West German gangs like D.A.F., Die Krupps and Einstürzende Neubauten were also progenitors of industrial-style electronic body music, as were Ledernacken and George Kranz, who both crossed over to U.S. dance charts in 1984. By that time, N.D.W. was entering a more commercial phase, exemplified by worldwide hits from Nena, Trio and (technically Austrian) Falco. Those three acts are here too, with less familiar songs than their big ones. Nena’s Krautrockish "Das Land Der Elefanten" follows "Elefantendisco" by Pyrolator, though why German musicians were so fond of elephants in the '80s has yet to be determined.

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