The Notwist is an elecro-indie-rock band from Weiheim in Obaerbayern, Germany. That’s in the southern part of the State of Bavaria. As close to Munich as it is to the Austrian border.
The band started in 1989 as a heavy metal band and have gone through a bunch of transformations over the years. Through it all, the band is pretty much centered around the brothers Markus (guitar, vocals) and Micha (bass) Acher. They flirted with full-on electronic, the flirted with full-on indie, and they found a magical mix with their fifth album Neon Golden, which was released to rave reviews in the United States one year after its January 2002 release in Europe.
Because they had such a wide range of influence and background, it’s really hard to put any convenient genre tags on The Notwist. I think it’s probably safe to say that tonight’s song was at least partially inspired by the genius of My Bloody Valentine. I’m not saying that The Notwist sounds like MBV, but I am saying that I smell their influence all over this song.
I remember getting this album way back then on a visit to a friend’s house in Washington, DC. I don’t think the album had been released in the US yet, but my friend had a hard copy of the German import. He was crazy for the album and burned a copy for me. This was back before we all had CD-R drives in our computers, and I was amazed when he used a component of his stereo system to make a CD for me. In about an hour, no less! Ah, how far we’ve come in ten years.
Anyway, I also liked the album a lot. Like a good, responsible music lover, I ended up buying a hard copy from my local mom-n-pop record shop (RIP, Gate City Noise) when it was eventually released here. The US version, for the record, has three bonus tracks that were originally released as a separate EP called Scoop. For a while, I was telling anybody and everybody that they should be listening to The Notwist. I burned copies from my desktop computer. I put their songs on mix tapes. Yes, mix tapes. I was still making mix tapes in 2003. Dammit… I really miss mix tapes. MP3 playlists aren’t the same. Mix CDs aren’t the same.
Anyway, I was really into that for a long while. Unfortunately, it was a long time before their next album came out. Five years after the stateside release of Neon Golden, to be precise. In May of 2008, the band released their six album, The Devil, You + Me. That was smack in the middle of my years of not buying new music. Smack in the middle of my years of being completely out of the loop. I was friends with some of the guys in the Music Geeks (Viva la Geek!) group, but at that point in history, they hadn’t yet let me in on the conversation. The point of all that is that in the five (or six) years that passed between Neon Golden and The Devil, You + Me, I forgot about The Notwist. I forgot about a lot of music, to be honest. I just sat around listening to my old favorites. I never got around to The Devil…, and I didn’t even know that it existed until I started working on this post. As I write, I’m downloading it from eMusic. Yes, I’m still an eMu member. Even though there’s less bang for the buck than there used to be, it’s still decent value, and it’s legal.
Now that I’ve given way more anecdotal details than are necessary, I can get down to the business of tonight’s song.
“One With The Freaks” by The Notwist
The way it starts off with sparse guitar, bass, electronics and vocals, it sounds very much like an “electronic” song, but at 1:30, it makes a brilliant shoe-gazing turn. I can’t get enough of that exact second when the guitar comes in. Really big. Really bright. Really great.
For the next minute or so, it builds in intensity just a bit, and there’s a suggestion that there’s going to be another burst of something awesome, but it doesn’t happen. It’s brilliant that the second burst never comes.
I’m not even sure what this song is about. Missing a romantic opportunity? The realization that you’re no longer needed? I don’t know.
You’ll no longer be kissed and kind
As you long for intuition
As you have to say the password twice
Have you ever been all messed up?
You’re the pin card
You’re the lifeguard
You’re the information guy
But things look much bigger … on your knees
Miss the signal
Miss the signpost
Lose access to it all
And all of a sudden,
You are one with the freaks
By the end of it, the electronics and the effects-laden guitar come together nicely. At 3:12, everything breaks down, and I really wish that the song just ended there. However, there’s about 25 seconds of some backwards masking. Whether it’s one of the audio tracks from the song or something else, I have no idea. If I had my way, I’d edit that bit out, but it’s still a brilliant song.
You can order a deluxe (CD + DVD) edition of Neon Golden from the band’s web shop here.