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Teenage Panzerkorps - German Reggae

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Artist: Teenage Panzerkorps

Album: German Reggae

Label: Holidays

Review date: Jun. 16, 2011

I suppose there’s a semiotic question lurking in the existence of Teenage Panzerkorps (a.k.a. Der TPK), slumped side-by-side with the more basic question of how or why a bunch of guys from San Francisco wound up getting with a Berlin-based singer to create a Germanic post-punk band. Equal parts Joy Division and Can, German Reggae is purposely misnamed, with its widely muddy bass lines the only remotely dubbed-out element.

Singer Bunker Wolf’s vocals, smeared over the top as if through a megaphone, feel like political agitprop, but not knowing German I can’t say if there’s actually anything political about them. He might be shouting his shopping list for all I know. His declaiming seems to lead reviewers to comparisons with The Fall’s Mark E. Smith, but the music makes me think more of a modern Magazine, or an updated version of some ’80s Rough Trade band.

These recordings are determinedly rough-edged, probably recorded in the practice space, but everything’s where it needs to be. The results are uneven, sometimes consigning everything to a narrow band of high-midrange while other times the bass throbs and threatens to swallow it all — but somehow it works. The band seems to have figured out the right feel for its style, and the energy’s always there. The drums are often the key element driving things forward, but the secret weapon might be the organ, which sneaks into some of the songs and provides a cushion that helps everything else rise.

While it’s still unclear what Teenage Panzerkorps really mean (this cross-cultural post-punk necromancy remains mysterious), what is clear is that it’s unearthed a killer sound and German Reggae does a nice job of showcasing the band’s winning ways. This album, at 32 minutes, is solid fun.

By Mason Jones

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