Tocotronic: an institution of german pop music

The new album "Never again war by Tocotronic is a pop cultural phenomenon that fits perfectly with current events – and yet is personally successful. It will be released on 28. January.

by Matthias Koppinghoff

Some musical movements are like an expiration date on a cheese: at some point, the thing has run its course. British bands like Oasis, Blur or Suede, for example, despise the word "Britpop". The same can be said for Blumfeld, die Sterne and Tocotronic. Until today Hamburg artists, just because of the reference to the residence, are called "Hamburger Schule" branded – whether that fits or not.

"Expired" Tocotronic are definitely not: For almost 30 years the band has been gliding between indie rock and pop. From the inflationary used term "Hamburger Schule" the band has long since freed themselves. In the meantime, album releases by Tocotronic are almost major social events. The new album "Nie Wieder Krieg" (Never Again War) is like that, too again a popcultural phenomenon, which once more fits perfectly to the current events – and still succeeded personally.

The three phases of Tocotronic’s development

You can almost divide the band’s albums into eras: At the beginning, the already mentioned movement in the 90s, in which Tocotronic wore track suit jacket, corduroy pants and side parting and became an identity-creating reference band for all indie nerds with intelligent lyrics including attitude and T-shirt-suitable titles (song example: "Ich mochte Teil einer Jugendbewegung sein"). Then followed a change of style. After the initially loud and fast guitar strumming, Dirk von Lowtzow, Jan Muller and Arne Zank tried to create a new sound. Strings and synthesizers were now also part of their sound cosmos. The trio grew with the addition of Rick McPhail into a quartet. With their own "Berlin Trilogy (the albums "Pure reason must never win"), "Kapitulation" and "Schall& Wahn"), Tocotronic showed that pop music can also be part of the feuilleton. In a third step and finally with "Die Unendlichkeit" (2018), the band’s songwriter, Dirk von Lowtzow, also allowed autobiographical influences to be.

"Never again war": This is what the new album sounds like

In 2022, Tocotronic have abstract lyrics and structures, a sophisticated mixing of seriousness and figurative wordplay – but of course the songs retain the traditional double bottoms and ambiguities. The new album "Nie wieder Krieg" connects perhaps all their eras with each other: Here are the catchy indie rock songs with a political statement like "Youth without God against Fascism". The album name and the title song of the same name were borrowed from Kathe Kollwitz, from her anti-war poster from 1924, which is still popular today.

The song "Hope was released long before the album, in the midst of the still very early Corona blues, which Tocotronic had something to offer – namely hope, comfort, a ray of hope in a dreariness that continues to this day. With "Ich tauchen auf there is not only a highlight on the album, but also the first duet on a Tocotronic record (with the Austrian Anja Plaschg aka Soap&Skin). So it has also become one of the strongest ballads in the band’s œuvre: a somber and sad lullaby.

VIDEO: Music at Inas Nacht: Tocotronic with "Ich tauche auf" (I show up) (4 min)

Tragedy, humor, poetry – and a frozen pizza

Carefully interspersed, however, there is also humor here and there on a thin dividing line between tragedy and comedy. Wonderful observation and poetry are not neglected – or was there ever such a wonderful song with a deep-frozen pizza as the protagonist as in "I hate it here"? (Song quote: "With herbs of Provence / I have no chance")? With "A monster came in the morning" you simply have a nice pop song, with "Crash" maybe even a little Tom Petty.

The band itself states that "Never again war" can also be understood as a novel or a film. When asked about this, Dirk von Lowtzow explains: "Perhaps it could be seen as a kind of disillusionment novel" describe, if you want to compare it with a novel. Because all the protagonists on the album can’t really cope with their own lives and are perhaps in existential distress or at least existential vulnerability. Many of the protagonists in the songs have had dreams, and these dreams have gradually crumbled."

A Tocotronic album for intelligent, sensitive ears

As clumsy as it may read, but the new Tocotronic album has become a Tocotronic album. Also "Never again war" is meant for intelligent, sensitive ears. The band itself describes the new songs as "songs about general vulnerability, emotional turmoil and existential abandonment" – so everything fits perfectly to the beginning of the year mood of the still young year 2022. Tocotronic can actually do whatever the band feels like doing at the moment. And so the musicians combine melodic and slogan-ready songs with political undertones and indie hits with anger, attitude, zeitgeist, melancholy and emotion. Lyrics are personal and can be interpreted one way or another. The listeners (affectionately referred to as "freaks" by the band) are the ones who called) get what you expect from the institution Tocotronic – and that is in this case once again a successful album.

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