Saturday, March 13, 2010

Liebe ist fuer alle da (II)

In a personal conversation a friend argued that Spanish photographer Eugenio Recuenco's cover art for the newest Rammstein album, Liebe ist fuer alle da, is much more in line with early baroque painters like Caravaggio.

For instance, the setting (lighting, background, surroundings) in Recuenco's photos is very similar to that in Caravaggio's The Calling of St. Matthew.

Caravaggio, unlike the Flemish and Dutch masters, did not shy away from representing grotesque topics (similar to Goya), and, much more to the point, Recuenco:

Caravaggio's Severed head of Medusa

Judith beheading Holofernes

Although not fully convinced, I admit my friend has a strong argument (thanks, mate). Then, again, I am no art expert.

Now, with Rammstein's lyrics... There is a shared characteristic in most of Rammstein's lyrics: they are a bit like seeing the world through the eyes of monsters. Rammstein represents what I call the Pathological Dada.

And although the view from Rammstein's eyes is far from sympathetic, its mere being empathetic makes the experience unsettling.

Let me give an example: as in the Reise, Reise album, there is a theme evocative of a criminal event: Wiener Blut (there is another theme evocative of Austria, but it's otherwise unrelated: Donaukinder).

A common translation is "Viennese spirit", as in Johann Strauss' operetta and waltz. But these Rammstein guys have a perverse sense of humor: it also can be translated, much more literally, as "Viennese blood". This gives you a general idea of the mood and content of the song.

Although not explicitly mentioned, there are elements (apart from the title itself) in the song alluding to the notorious Joseph Fritzl case: a brief infantile giggling in the background, allusions to darkness, a basement and suffering…

This is not the first time Rammstein finds inspiration in cases like this. In Reise, Reise, there was Mein Teil, inspired by the "German cannibal" case.

Unlike Mein Teil, though, which had some black humor and sarcasm sprinkled around what was also an extremely creepy song, Wiener Blut is strictly sinister, unpleasant and gloomy.

Don't get me wrong: it's not a bad song (although I don't know if the adjective "good" is appropriate, either). It achieves, in my opinion, what its authors aimed at: to disturb the listeners by confronting us with aspects of reality we know exist, but are beyond our daily experience.

This doesn't mean that all Rammstein songs are equally effective. As in previous releases, there is a song that seems aimed at shocking by its mere shock value: Pussy. It shares similarities with the older Te Quiero Puta (I Want you, Whore). As the title suggests, it's not fully in German. As I see it, it's the weakest song in the album, although I wouldn't be surprised it was a hit in nightclubs (not in radios, though, as it uses some English "forbidden" words, pronounced with a distinct German accent, that makes them, somewhat comical).

But the song that speaks more to me, given my ideological leanings, is Mehr (i.e. "more"). I suppose for a band that dwells on the pathological and morbose, it was just a matter of time until a song about what makes capitalism tick appeared.

In Reise, Reise, we already had Amerika and Moskau (which from a humorous, and pained points of view, respectively, alluded to globalization and the move towards a "free market" society in the former USSR) we had hints to this. But Mehr attempts to go to the core of what capitalism is:

All die anderen
haben so wenig.
Gebt mir auch das noch
sie brauchen's eh nicht

(Everybody else/has so little/Give me that too/they don't need it).

I don't know why, but I could imagine a few politicians and talking-heads starring in a video clip for this song. If the Rammstein agent reads this, please remember, the idea was mine: Gebt mir geld und credit, bitte.

PS: There are other remarkable songs in this release. I will comment on them later on.

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