If you ask a classical musician/aficionado about German music, they might tell you about greats such as Haydn, Beethoven, Wagner, Bach and Mozart—German music has a very prestigious history. But if you ask the next guy you see wearing jandals and surfer shorts about German music, and—provided he isn’t also carrying a sousaphone—he will probably say: “There’s this band Rammstein*, I think they’re German eh bro?” Yeah they’re German. I’m sensing this is probably about the peak of this review’s intelligence right here, so I’m just going to add that I heard they once did a show wearing nothing but giant diapers, and descended onto the stage from a giant uterus.
Rammstein. This industrial metal band doesn’t really fit in with the list of aforementioned German musicians that non-Germans have heard of. Nevertheless I was quite excited when Jackson handed me their new CD, Liebe Ist Für Alle Da (Love Is There For Everyone). The excitement turned out to be not so great, however, when I quickly realised that I had for some reason mistaken it for Metallica. But it’s still cool, because they’re German, and I speak German, you know?
I’m not so familiar with their older stuff, but I’ve noticed a lot of people know their song ‘Du hast’. “Du,” they usually tell me, “Du hast. Du hast mich…” I then interrupt them with an explanation on how the German verbs to have and to hate both conjugate to the same word in the second person singular, and how the song exploits this.
I’ve never quite managed to finish my explanation.
Truth be told, I started listening to Rammstein when I started learning German. I got Reise, Reise first and Rosenrot sometime later. When I could actually understand German I came back to them and was a bit shocked—and impressed—at some of the lyrics that had been floating in my head without meaning so long ago.
In Reise, Reise there is a song inspired by an infamous cannibalism case in Germany (‘Mein Teil’—’My Part’), and an awesome and quite chilling modernisation of Goethe’s dark romanticism poem Der Erlenkönig (‘Dalai Lama’). Rosenrot has a song about a boy who plays with fire and gets brutally burned (‘Hilf Mir’—’Help Me’), and another song about a mob eagerly encouraging a man to kill himself by jumping off a high bridge (‘Spring’—’Jump’). Their songs aren’t without substance, something I actually admire about them.
Rammstein branches out linguistically every now and then, offering songs in English, Russian and Spanish, and often mixing it with German. Because of complicated metaphor I’m about to use, now is a good time to mention that the word on the street is that Rammstein isn’t as popular in Germany as they probably are outside of it.
So I think on this new album, the song ‘Pussy’ is quite representative of Rammstein as a whole. It has the shock value, language mixing, and perhaps also represents their relative unpopularity in Germany:
You’ve got a Pussy I have a Dick ah
So what’s the problem let’s do it quick
So take me now before it’s too late
Life’s too short so I can’t wait
So take me now oh don’t you see
I can’t get laid in Germany
Too short too tall doesn’t matter one size fits all
Zu groß zu klein der Schlagbaum sollte oben sein (Too big too small, the toll bar should be on top)
Schönes Fräulein Lust auf mehr (Pretty lady hungry for more)
Blitzkrieg mit dem Fleischgewehr (Blitzkrieg with the meat gun)
It’s not all sex and death though. Well, it is mostly, but I’ve always found a few gems in each album. ‘Dalai Lama’ still sends shivers down my spine, and ‘Benzin’ makes me want to burn things. From a few listens, opener ‘Rammlied’ (‘Ramm-song’) and the album’s namesake ‘Liebe Ist Für Alle Da’ (‘Love Is There For Everyone’) stand out quite a bit, but I think special mention should go to the closer ‘Roter Sand’ (‘Red Sand’), a brilliantly sung ballad about a dying man, shot by a rival for his lover:
Eine Liebe ein Versprechen (One love, one promise)
Sagt ich komm zurück zu dir (Said I’d come back to you)
Nun ich muss es leider brechen (Now I must sadly break it)
Seine Kugel steckt in mir (His bullet is stuck in me)
Eine Liebe zwei Pistolen (One love, two pistols)
Eine zielt mir ins Gesicht (One aimed at my face)
Er sagt ich hätte dich gestohlen (He says I stole you)
Dass du mich liebst weiß er nicht (He doesn’t know that you love me)
Roter Sand und zwei Patronen (Red sand and two rounds)
Eine stirbt im Pulverkuss (One dies in gunpowder’s kiss)
Die zweite soll ihr Ziel nicht schonen (The second shall not spare its target)
Steckt jetzt tief in meiner Brust (Now stuck deep in my breast)
Ultimately, if you don’t speak German, then you probably won’t get as much out of this album, but I’m all for the broadening of cultural horizons. For a rock band they sound really good though, and have definitely maintained a distinctive sound across their albums. So if you don’t mind that the only song you’ll understand much of is a song about pussy, or you’re a budding fan, then I’d recommend you give this album a listen.
Now I’ll leave you with some food for thought from their song ‘Haifisch’ (‘Shark’).
Und der Haifisch der hat Tränen (And the shark, it has tears)
Und die laufen vom Gesicht (And they flow from its face)
Doch der Haifisch lebt im Wasser (But the shark lives in water)
So die Tränen sieht man nicht (So you don’t see the tears)
In der Tiefe ist es einsam (In the deep it’s lonely)
Und so manche Zähre fließt (And so some tears flow)
Und so kommt es dass das Wasser (And so it is that the water)
In den Meeren salzig ist (In the seas is salty)
*He’ll probably pronounce it ram-steen.