Sunday, January 09, 2005


For our Sunday morning delectation, Claire Berlinski (who?) offers this charming nugget:

Das Jackboot: German Heavy Metal Conquers Europe

about Rammstein.

Some highlights:

>"Their pyromaniacal stage shows and songs about mass graves, white flesh, screaming mothers and the eroticism of power have made the band members infamous, as much for their neo-fascist aesthetic as for their assiduous denials that their music has anything to do with what it very much seems to be about."

>"The cold seemed to dampen the crowd's energy; the fans only once burst into into the traditional skinhead chant - 'Oi! Oi! Oi!'"

Are all Rammstein fans skinheads? Coulda fooled me; they toured the US with Korn and Ice Cube.

>"In the early 1990's, when Rammstein burst onto the scene, resurgent German nationalism had given rise to an efflorescence of politically strident "Fascho-rock" bands."

(Note that none of those bands are named in the piece.)

Hey, would you like some guilt-by-association along with your fear-mongering? No problem, Claire Berlinski has you covered...

>”Although the band sang only in German, it set sales records in the rest of Europe, and even managed to intrigue Americans (among them, unfortunately, the boys who opened fire at Columbine High). The men are enormously popular in Russia, too; according to authorities there, the organizers of the Beslan massacre were Rammstein fans as well.”

But are they dangerous fascists? Or just boring old Eurotrash America-haters?

>”With the release last September of the album ‘Reise Reise,’ Rammstein for the first time took an explicit political stance. The song was ‘Amerika,’ an exercise in garden-variety European anti-Americanism.”

It would have been helpful had Ms. Berlinski deigned to enlighten her readers by translating the German lyrics of “Amerika.” But she doesn’t. And reading the CD booklet only gives us the English-language choruses:

We’re all living in Amerika
Amerika ist wunderbar
We’re all living in Amerika
Amerika, Amerika

We’re all living in Amerika
Coca-Cola, Wonderbra
We’re all living in Amerika
Amerika, Amerika

There are also these terrible, unacceptable sentiments, of course:

This is not a love song
This is not a love song
I don’t sing my mother tongue
No, this is not a love song

Does combining the phrase “this is not a love song” with the Germanic spelling of “America” equal anti-Americanism? I guess so, if you’re writing for the New York Times.

The article really reaches its peak when Ms. Berlinski attends a distressingly Nuremberg-like Rammstein concert:

>”A huge curtain dropped, revealing a row of massive Potemkin amplifiers that flashed with the band's insignia, something like a swastika.”

Actually, it’s much more like a Malevich “Black Cross,”

which brings me to another point: how did Ms. Berlinski get through her entire article without even a passing mention of Laibach, who not only took the Malevich cross as their symbol way back in 1980,

(note armbands)

but pulled most of Rammstein’s best tricks a decade before the East Germans first turned up on the charts?

Oh, well. Back to the unfolding horror of live rock music:

>”The band then introduced one of its most notorious songs, ‘Links,’ with the sound of metrically precise, marching jackboots. Links means left, and the band claims this song is an expression of its left-wing sensibilities. The jackboots were followed by a furious chorus: ‘Links-Zwo-Drei-Vier! Links-Zwo-Drei-Vier!’ (‘Left-Two-Three-Four! Left-Two-Three-Four!’) The German language lent itself to the powerful, rhythmic song. The keyboardist stomped about in a German military helmet. Mr. Lindemann performed an exaggerated goose step. The crowd shouted ‘Hi!’ in unison, which sounded just different enough from ‘Heil’ that the resemblance could be denied.”

Oh, that German language, that so lends itself to rhythmic chanting of brutal slogans. (But wait – I thought it was the blacks who had natural rhythm. Oh, well.)

>”The musicians, wearing flame-throwing gas masks, sprayed fire over the stage. They burst explosives in the air and shot balls of flames over the audience, generating heat so intense that fans began to pass out. Medics strapped the fallen Germans to gurneys and carted them away; as for the survivors, it would not have been hard to direct their furious energy toward a target. When, later, the band sang ‘Amerika,’ it seemed quite clear what the target of preference would be. I emerged from the concert profoundly relieved that the members of Rammstein declare themselves to be against war: If this is their pacifism, the mind boggles at what their aggression might look like.”

This reminds me of an old anti-Black Flag piece excreted in the pages of BAM or some other leftover-hippie rag back in the early Eighties. But this isn’t some patchouli-reeking alt-weekly – this is the New York Times, pinching off what amounts to a blood libel against Rammstein, and those brutal white Europeans (and American school-shooting perpetrators) who buy their records.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I think this has got to be the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. For one, music does not affect one's behavior unless there are major pre-existing personality and mental issues. The Columbine shooters, for instance, were mentioned. It is known that they were fans of Rammstein and Marilyn Manson. It should also be known that in the FBI's Analysis of the Killers' Motives, released 4-20-2004, that Eric Harris was a clinical psychopath and Dylan Klebold was depressive.

Music has nothing to do with what someone does or acts like. It's a ridiculous thought. And if Rammstein really has this powerful effect on people, why then am I not shooting up some school or anything? I am a rather large fan...