NO ONE BUT this X-th generation German-American seems to have remarked on the profound ironies of Kraftwerk’s recent boast that they’re the first German pop group to actually sing in German. Der Fuhrer’s ashes must be doing cartwheels in some Berlin garbage can, to know that his blond-haired, blue-eyed kinder have been singing their hearts out in the “Negroid doggerel” of the American language thus far in the history of pop.
While Chuck Berry-ized English is of course the Esperanto of rock ‘n’ roll, young Germans are doubly cautious of ethnic assertiveness, for, as every good citizen of the Bundesrepublik knows, celebrations of German racial pride during modern history have too often escalated into set-the-controls-for-the-heart-of-Hades apocalypses.
Amon Duul II are still singing in English, even to the point of sarcastically affecting that old Hogan’s Heroes‘ chestnut, “Krauts,” to describe their own kind, but in Made in Germany, they are also finally dealing with unmistakably German subject matter. The promulgation of instrumental “space rock” by so many German groups has been a symptom not only of their fascination with applied technology, but also of their reluctance to lyricize the questions of their own identity; synthesizers have no racial skeletons in the closet.
Made in Germany is being billed as a “rock opera,” but with the whole of modern German history as its massive subject, the album is less a unified opera than a series of precisely-instrumented, flawlessly-narrated vignettes suggesting several highlights of that history, as seen by AD II. ‘Metropolis’ is the expected reworking of the cabaret-as-decadence metaphor for pre-Nazi Berlin. ‘Dreams’ is an oddly sentimental depiction of the Hitler-Eva Braun relationship, and ‘Loosey Girls’ portrays the general dislocations of West German society after World War II. ‘5.5.55’ is the best rocker on Made in Germany, a silver Porsche 911 of a tune designed for ausgekicken die Jamzen; the subject is the “economic miracle” of postwar Germany, a phenomenon treated with grudging respect by the old commune-dwellers of Amon Duul II. (Ja, they probably all drive VWs, too.)
‘Mr. Kraut’s Jinx’, the ostensible cosmic truth of the set, a meandering saga about a tragically-flawed German rock group (Lucifer’s Friend?) out to conquer the world, concludes dramatically with the watchword, “Future ain’t tomorrow, future is today!” Since Hitler also lived by that motto when he was overrunning Europe, I’m not sure what moral precept AD II hopes to impart to us, but the cut is priceless nonetheless for Chris Karrer’s luxuriously guttural pronunciation of “extraterrestrial.”
As a compulsive student of the cultural history of Der Vaterland, I’m looking forward to further song cycles defining all the quirks of the German soul; for now, Made in Germany is an ambitious beginning at that task.
© Richard Riegel, Creem, January 1976