The people of Germany, post-World War II, have suffered a reputation as rigid, orderly and somewhat boring people. In recent decades, Germans have gained valuable ground on the matter, with cities such as Berlin and Hamburg blossoming into thriving cultural centres (populated by, dare we say, a startling number of foreigners). Indeed, when Germans are considered cool, it’s often in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek, kitsch way.
While not exactly breaking from this trend, The In-Kraut Vol. 2 nonetheless provides a stylish glimpse into the more svelte aspects of Teutonic culture, following the strain of groove-rich tunes produced between the late-sixties and mid-seventies. Many of the ditties contained herein are not immediately distinguishable from their Continental or trans-Atlantic counterparts, as you might expect from instrumental tracks, or those comprising lyrics such as ‘da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da’. In fact, half the fun of this release plays into the hands of the kitsch cliché, imagining those swinging hep-cats getting down to ‘ding-dong-ding-dong, dong-ding-ding-dong’ – the evocative lyrics to ‘Swinging London’ as masterminded by Hazy Osterwald Jet Set.
If it sounds as though I’m making fun of The In-Kraut, it’s just that this music is actually fun. Sure, it’s vaguely cheesy and Austin Powers pretty much vomited on the whole aesthetic, but all the same, those mods really knew how to arrange a pop song. The orchestrations are as inventive as ever, and the tunes dreamy. ‘Kamera Song’ is no exception, and its fuzzy edges betray its creators – The Inner Space – as an earlier incarnation of kraut-rock heroes Can. Elsewhere, one needn’t struggle to uncover a cache of Hammond organs, strident horns, chucka-chucka rhythms and soul-heavy basslines. Typically of this era, the drums – both in sound and pattern – are a big part of the attraction.
It would be too easy to pass this music off as kitsch alone. Despite the fact that its star players’ talents are generally surpassed by the overbearing stylistic rules and expectations of the genre, The In-Kraut Vol. 2 flaunts the sound that – in its time – was representative of an aspirant German middle-class, cosmopolitan and creative. It also preempts that giant of a genre – kraut-rock – sharing common elements such as hypnotic rhythms and an interest in bombastic new sounds.
Not that it needs – or intends – to be taken so seriously. Perhaps what I’m trying to say is: The In-Kraut Vol. 2 will sit most comfortably on the shelves of aficionados, sociologists, dilettantes and lushes alike.