Wulfband - Wulfband
Old School EBM, EBM Ever been so pissed off you just wanted to jump up and down, screaming, “Nein!” or “Fick das!”? Yeah, I thought so. Well, the anonymous “Swedische Muttifickers” of Wulfband have, too, so they put together a list of about fifty German words to describe how pissed off they are about everything and crafted an entire album around such naughty outbursts, and yes, the end result is every bit as invigorating as you might expect! Imagine a roided out D.A.F. fist-pumping triumphantly while a bucket of testosterone splashes down from the ceiling like in the climactic scene of some electropunk version of Flashdance, and there you have Wulfband, in a nutshell. What a feeling!

The masked duo from Stockholm, Sieben and Neun, materialized on Facebook, seemingly out of nowhere, last March, and have been terrorizing Sweden ever since. They signed with Progress Productions in June 2014, and unleashed a three-track promo CD a month later. At the beginning of November, they played their first official gig at the Swedish EBM Festival Bodyfest, and a few days later, Progress released their debut album on CD and 12” vinyl. The same day the album launched, Swedish pop culture journalist Fredrik Strage profiled it on the morning news on TV4. Wulfband also contributed the track “Was Für Ein Fest!” (“What a Party!”) to the compilation album 10 Years of Progress Productions 2004-2014, which was released later that month. By February, their self-titled debut took home an award for Best Synth Album at the Swedish Independent Music Producers Association’s annual Manifest Awards, and the boys are scheduled to perform at Familientreffen XI in July, so brace yourself, Germany!

Wulfband have made it their mission to bring back “what everyone actually wants”—old school EBM unencumbered by techno, future pop, or aggrotech—and their well-polished debut is a resounding, stomp-worthy success. The album’s twelve tracks, each between two and three minutes in length, barrel along at breakneck speed, with no filler material in sight. Like their labelmates Sturm Caf
é, Wulfband sing (or, rather, scream) entirely in German, because as band spokesman Wolfred Higgins told Zero Music Magazine last October: “German is a powerful language, and I’ve found that you tend to do whatever a lunatic screaming in German tells you to.” Although Wulfband uses traditional EBM basslines and heavy beats, the synth parts are spawned from the depths of the more experimental end of the late 70s/early 80s synthpop/Neue Deutsche Welle pool (most noticeably on “Jetzt,” “Weg” and “Panik”). They sound a little like a more aggressive version of Spark!, but the manic vocals frequently somehow remind me of 80s glam metal. Interestingly, Wulfband brought a saxophone player onstage at their Göta källare concert on March 27th, but unfortunately, no clips of that part of the performance have yet surfaced online.

The album kicks off with the crowd-pleasing “3, 2, 1, Nein,” which opens with a sort of escalating synth part, then adds a driving bassline, and what sounds like a sample of Hitler shouting, but it’s too faint for me to tell for sure. Other than the countdown, the only lyrics I can clearly understand are: “Do you speak German? Yeah. Good. No!” and what sounds like “It’s never too late for negativity. If you say yes, then you’re alone.”

“Jetzt” (“Now”) begins with what sounds like a xylophone, adds a whirring synth part, and occasionally features what sounds like clinking bottles, perhaps a nod to D.A.F.’s “Der Räuber and der Prinz” (1981), but it also evokes Fad Gadget’s “Collapsing New People” (1983). The snippets of lyrics I can make out are: “in my life,” something about coming out of the basement, “nothing in my life,” “I go on the computer,” something about shit, and “I see absolutely nothing, not even people.” Then there’s the refrain: “When does the pain start? The pain starts now.” If I’m not paying close enough attention, sometimes the word “wann” sounds almost like “fun,” but as far as I can tell, absolutely nothing fun is happening in this song; it sounds like it might be about a shut-in searching for internet porn, but I’m not sure.

The clanky percussion that opens “Kalt Blut” (a not-quite grammatical “Cold Blood”) is reminiscent of early Einstürzende Neubauten, while the refrain “Kalt Blut, alles gut” tips its hat to D.A.F.’s “Alles ist gut” (1981). (For that matter, Wulfband’s motto, “Gewalt-Tanz und Angriffe gegen alles”“Dance violence and attacks against all/everything”also seems to derive from D.A.F.’s “Alle Gegen Alle.”) The lyrics to “Kalt Blut” are more than a little cheesy (“You want to find that I can’t bleed, that I’m cooler than every other man… It’ll take more than a thousand suns to thaw me”), but the music’s great, so it really doesn’t matter. I’d like to take a moment here to thank Wulfband for introducing me to the word “Mürrischheit” (“surliness”), which I probably never would have encountered otherwise—if, by chance, I ever hear or see this word again, I won’t be able to resist thinking of Wulfband’s masked (presumably grumpy) faces. For better or for worse, I will forever associate “Mürrischheit” with Wulfband.

“Gewalt” (“Violence”) begins with some punching sounds and basically turns into a soundtrack for beating the shit out of someone. If it were used in a movie, it would most likely be in a drunken bar fight scene with people overturning tables, throwing chairs, and smashing bottles over each other’s heads. The vocals are clipped barks, and the only words I can really make out are: “What does the world need? Violence!,”“my hand,” “bloody,” “The blood is the heat if society is too cold,” and something about love and money (perhaps an allusion to D.A.F.’s 1981 Gold und Liebe album). The song title is another nod to D.A.F.’s “Gewalt,” from their 1980 album Die Kleinen Und Die Bösen.

The militant “Attentat” (“Assassination”) has frantic, occasionally gasping vocals, and more clanky percussion complemented with a sample of either an alarm or a ringing telephone, and another sample of a news broadcast in the middle. All I can make out from the lyrics is: “We’re coming with a gift,” “assassination,” what might be “I gave you everything,” and “in the city.” The album’s most subversive song, “Weg” (“Away”), opens with the muted sound of glass shattering, and a boy shouting what sounds like “Los, schnell!” (something like “Go, quickly!”). The singer denounces “your lies,” and sneers, “You really believe that is good taste,” then the call and response refrain consists of “Singing with the children,” followed by the children singing something that sounds like either “Everyone needs to get away” or “Everything must go.” Like “Attentat,” “Panik” incorporates a sample of a German news broadcast and some kind of ringing sound. The only words I can make out are: “They ask that you think ______ politics,” “panic without logic,” and “a little bit of romance.” The least retro-sounding song on the album, “Chaostanzen” features the most Douglas McCarthy-like vocals and the most difficult-to-decipher lyrics. All I understand are the words “going out,” and the beginning of Anna Nörler’s whispered line; at first, it sounds like she says “Dancing in your [something],” but at the end of the song, it sounds more like “Dancing with your beautiful [something].” About ninety percent of “Fick Das” (“Fuck That”) consists solely of yelling “Fick das,” but there’s a cool chanted part that strangely reminds me of the “Thunder” chant in AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.” “SMF” (an abbreviation of “swedische Muttifickers”) also has a bit of a metal vibe to it, along with the most insane-sounding vocals. My favorite song on the album, “Aggressivität” (“Aggression”), is a raucous sing-along with the lyrics: “Aggression. It’s my identity. Only with a punch [do] I allow contact, and I’m very proud of my sole attribute.”

Okay, about “Klappe Bitte Ficken” (“Shut Up, Please Fuck”)… Where do I even begin? Are you ready for a ridiculous story about misheard/misunderstood song lyrics? Because that’s what you’re gonna get! This one threw me for a loop. First, I thought the singer was yelling, “Klappe! Klappe! Bitte! Alle Menschen ficken,” and thought: “Wait… Most humans already fuck. Why is that a special request? This is gonna take more scrutiny.” The vocals by German national Eurovision finalist Ben Ivory are spoken slowly enough that by listening to the song repeatedly, I could make out about half of what he’s saying, or at least transcribe what I think I hear, but I knew that would take time, and my immediate concern was the meaning of the word “Klappe,” which I’d never heard before. When I took German seventeen years ago, the teacher taught us to say “shut up” in the most polite way possible, “Halt den Mund” (roughly, “stop [running] your mouth”), and that was that—we moved on to other things without exploring all the various possibilities for telling someone to shut up. If you read/hear “Klappe” and think “Clap on, clap off,” you’ve got the wrong idea. (And if you sang along with that jingle, you also watched too much TV in the 80s.) I thought “Klappe” might come from the verb “klappen” (“to fold”), but knew it wasn’t being used literally, so I started looking for alternate meanings. The closest I came to finding the correct answer was in the phrase “Halt die Klappe” (“Shut your trap”), but that just confused me because I couldn’t figure out if the word was supposed to be a verb or a noun. Apparently, “Klappe!” is a shortened form of “Halt die Klappe,” so I guess it’s a noun that functions as a verb, similar to how “Schnauze!” (literally, “snout,” but construed as a very rude way to say “Shut up”) is a noun that functions as a verb. It reminds me of a 1993 Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, in which the following exchange takes place:

Calvin: I like to verb words.
Hobbes: What?
Calvin: I take nouns and adjectives and use them as verbs. Remember when "access" was a thing? Now it's something you do. It got verbed…. Verbing weirds language.
Hobbes: Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding.

Finally, I got so frustrated I couldn’t think clearly, so I messaged a German friend and asked, “Hey, what does ‘Klappe Bitte Ficken’ mean?” It takes a lot of restraint to answer that question straight-forwardly. If someone asked me that, I’d be tempted to say, “Go ask your mom!” Maybe she was tempted to say something like that, too, but was too polite to actually do it (thanks, Marsela—you’re a gem!). She wrote back, “It means ‘Shut up, please fuck,’” and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Furthermore, it turned out that the word I thought was “Menschen” is actually “Mädchen” (“girls”), which makes a lot more sense, but unfortunately made me picture a very disappointed Lehrerin sadly shaking her head, saying: “Will those of you who can’t distinguish between ‘Mädchen’ and ‘Menschen’ please move to the back of the room? We have no time to deal with you today. Gar nicht! Wir haben keine Zeit für Ihnen.” I can’t overstate the importance of not confusing “Mädchen” for “Menschen” in this song, as someone might show up looking for a party he wasn’t specifically invited to, and that would be awkward.

Anyway, here’s what I think Ben says, although I’m sure I’ve mangled some of it. The first part sounds like: “Es gibt nur eine Sache die ihnen [or Ihnen] gut gelingt und die beherrschen sie [or Sie] wirklich perfekt, angetrieben von den [Ding?], die sie [or Sie] nicht verstehen kann, und immer [oft?] an Knien beten,” or “There is only one thing that works well for them [or you], and they [or you] control it perfectly, driven by [thing?] that they [or you] can’t understand, and always [frequently?] begging on [a seemingly unspoken “their” or “your”] knees.” Then Sieben or Neun shouts, “Shut up! Shut up! Please, all girls fuck!” There are too many blanks or question marks in the second part for me to make a good guess about its meaning, but it sounds like: “Sie glauben immer noch sie [or Sie] sein [Verhörens?] bestimmt, und endlich [gern?] ______ viel zu viel, verschwenden _____ von seiten ______ Zukunft aus ______ das Jugend das ______ sein stimmt.” The first five words are “You [or they] still believe you [or they],” but that’s all I can parse. If anyone wants to fill in the blanks or correct that, please do! I’ve run out of steam.

After I got an answer regarding the meaning of “Klappe!,” I realized I might have asked the “Bück Dich” question of the decade. If you don’t remember the “Bück Dich” question, here’s the backstory: Basically, you couldn’t peruse a Rammstein forum in the late 90s without seeing a flood of “What does ‘Bück Dich’ mean?” questions. The problem became so bad you started to suspect that half of the people asking already knew the answer, but they continued to ask anyway just to be annoying, or maybe because the temptation to ask a question that would immediately result in fifteen people simultaneously posting “Bend over!” was too great a temptation to resist. It remains to be seen whether the “Klappe!” question has enough legs to become the twenty-first century equivalent of the “Bück Dich” carpet bombing, but I almost hope it does, not least because I’d like to move out of the back of the room at some point.

Wulfband’s Discogs bio states/warns: “Music wise, it's inspired by the early post-punk DAF, and some Messerschmidts would perhaps even suggest that it's a parody thereof? These pondering Messerschmidts should also consider that at least one of the guys looks quite capable of inflicting serious damage if that matter or their German pronunciation would come under debate...” Naturally, my first question was: “What’s a Messerschmidt?” For fellow trivia buffs, “Messerschmitt” is a Swedish slang term for a know-it-all; there’s a well-known joke that goes: "You're such a messerschmitt!" "Don't you mean 'besserwisser'?" "See what I mean?" Before I came across this factoid, however, I stumbled across a photo gallery of the 18th-century German-Austrian sculptor Franz Xaver Messerschmidt’s famous contorted “character heads,” and thought Wulfband’s bio might be referencing him. Some of the faces look constipated, and I’m sure that’s how I looked while trying to figure out “Klappe!” This is probably one of those rabbit holes that easily distracted people are so wont to fall into, but in his short article, “A Little Madness Goes a Long Creative Way,” art historian Donald Kuspit wrote a few things about Messerschmidt that seemed to tie in nicely with Wulfband. First, a little background on Messerschmidt: He suffered a “psychotic break” sometime around 1770, when he started creating the contorted “character heads.” He also had some kind of digestive malady (now thought to be Crohn’s disease) that caused him to attempt to relieve the pain by standing before a mirror and pinching himself beneath the ribs. He recorded his own pained grimaces in his busts. He told a friend he thought he had angered the “Spirit of Proportion,” who sent succubi to torment him in his sleep (Messerschmidt is thought to have remained a virgin).  In 1774, he was passed over for a promised promotion at the Vienna Academy, and forced into retirement. He died in isolation nine years later.

So what does any of this have to do with Wulfband? Well, I thought of Wulfband’s feature-less masks when I read this passage: “The faces have a mask-like frozenness: was Messerschmidt play-acting, trying out and acting out different identities by making different faces? Some of the characters have a strange kinship with the characters portrayed in the commedia della arte, however uncannily tragic they also seem. They certainly are fantastic and weirdly theatrical
pretentiously absurd performance art, as it were, for Messerschmidt is performing himself, as all exhibitionistic performance artists do however much they may pretend to be someone else
whether by the standards of Messerschmidt’s day or ours.”

In the October 2014 Zero Music Magazine interview I mentioned earlier, Higgins, when asked if Wulfband’s angry music is intended to be cathartic, responded: “I sadly cannot claim to know the answer to that question. But you have to admit it is quite a good substitute for actually running around fist-fighting and being angry with people in general?”

Progress’s official Wulfband bio states: “Wulfband, like the wolf, sneaks out from the dark and attacks you. But instead of fangs that pierce you their weapon is crushing beats and driving bass lines with aggressive and deranged vocals. Music that rushes, strikes and thrusts until you submit totally. Wulfband is here to own the EBM-scene.” To further drive home the point, they released a short, cleverly-edited video called Band of Horses vs. Wulfband, showing a herd of gentle horses, serenaded by Band of Horses' 2006 song "The Funeral," being chased down and devoured by a pack of wolves, whose arrival is, of course, heralded by Wulfband's "Panik."

In Kuspit’s article, he writes: "‘Man must completely hide the red of the lip,’ [Messerschmidt] asserts, which can ‘be interpreted as a denial of sexuality, as [art historian Ernst] Kris says, for ‘the lips are the symbol of sexual impulses.’ [Messerschmidt] envies animals, who have ‘vast advantages over man,’ for ‘they knew and sensed many things in nature which were concealed to man,’ suggesting that he wished to be an animalas instinctive as an animal. It seems clear that he sacrificed his instinctshis animal sexuality and animal aggressionwhen he turned away from his early Baroque and Rococo style… I suggest that his denied instincts threatened to erupt, and that the tightly closed lips and mouth in the majority of his character heads reflect his desperate attempt to restrain them, and the difficulty of doing so. His instincts made themselves felt in the symptomatic distortionalmost to the point of grotesquenessof the faces of the heads. It gives them their peculiarly absurd power, for it reflects his powerlessness to control them, indeed, their sudden power over him, threatening to overpower him. In the few cases where their mouths are open, perhaps notably in his laughing self-portrait, the teeth are conspicuously displayed, suggesting a latent hostility. Animals supposedly show the ‘red of the lip’ when they are threatened and threaten in return…. Messerschmidt could not find a socially and artistically respectable way of containing his id, which is why the expressions on the faces of his character heads seem disrespectful and anti-social, not to say provocative. They had to wait for our time to be respected for their artfulness (so-called formal properties), to the extent of being hyped as proto-expressionistic… rather than perversely expressiveconfirming that even the most socially alien art (and socially alienated artist) ends up socialized into respectability…. But Messerschmidt’s character heads, for all their ostentatious yet one-dimensional expressivitywhich gives them their peculiar frozen look, as though the eyes were petrified by what they saw on his inside when they when they were closed on the outsideseem peculiarly characterless…. I suggest that Messerschmidt came to realize, through the unhappy experience of being passed over for an important position and losing his place in society (and thus ‘losing face’), that he had been living an inauthentic existencethat he had become a False Self, a dispensable part of the social machinery of art, to play on [psychoanalyst Donald] Winnicott’s idea that the False Self is like a compliant cog in a social machine.”

Kuspit goes on to say that Messerschmidt’s madness was liberating because it allowed him to be “reborn as an artist,” leaving behind his earlier Baroque, Rococo, and Neoclassical styles to move in a more authentic (in this case, Expressionistic) direction. One has to wonder, then, if Wulfband’s madness also represents a sort of artistic rebirth for them, and if so, how far they’re willing to go. I, for one, hope to find out.





5
Brutal Resonance

Wulfband - Wulfband

Ever been so pissed off you just wanted to jump up and down, screaming, “Nein!” or “Fick das!”? Yeah, I thought so. Well, the anonymous “Swedische Muttifickers” of Wulfband have, too, so they put together a list of about fifty German words to describe how pissed off they are about everything and crafted an entire album around such naughty outbursts, and yes, the end result is every bit as invigorating as you might expect! Imagine a roided out D.A.F. fist-pumping triumphantly while a bucket of testosterone splashes down from the ceiling like in the climactic scene of some electropunk version of Flashdance, and there you have Wulfband, in a nutshell. What a feeling!

The masked duo from Stockholm, Sieben and Neun, materialized on Facebook, seemingly out of nowhere, last March, and have been terrorizing Sweden ever since. They signed with Progress Productions in June 2014, and unleashed a three-track promo CD a month later. At the beginning of November, they played their first official gig at the Swedish EBM Festival Bodyfest, and a few days later, Progress released their debut album on CD and 12” vinyl. The same day the album launched, Swedish pop culture journalist Fredrik Strage profiled it on the morning news on TV4. Wulfband also contributed the track “Was Für Ein Fest!” (“What a Party!”) to the compilation album 10 Years of Progress Productions 2004-2014, which was released later that month. By February, their self-titled debut took home an award for Best Synth Album at the Swedish Independent Music Producers Association’s annual Manifest Awards, and the boys are scheduled to perform at Familientreffen XI in July, so brace yourself, Germany!

Wulfband have made it their mission to bring back “what everyone actually wants”—old school EBM unencumbered by techno, future pop, or aggrotech—and their well-polished debut is a resounding, stomp-worthy success. The album’s twelve tracks, each between two and three minutes in length, barrel along at breakneck speed, with no filler material in sight. Like their labelmates Sturm Caf
é, Wulfband sing (or, rather, scream) entirely in German, because as band spokesman Wolfred Higgins told Zero Music Magazine last October: “German is a powerful language, and I’ve found that you tend to do whatever a lunatic screaming in German tells you to.” Although Wulfband uses traditional EBM basslines and heavy beats, the synth parts are spawned from the depths of the more experimental end of the late 70s/early 80s synthpop/Neue Deutsche Welle pool (most noticeably on “Jetzt,” “Weg” and “Panik”). They sound a little like a more aggressive version of Spark!, but the manic vocals frequently somehow remind me of 80s glam metal. Interestingly, Wulfband brought a saxophone player onstage at their Göta källare concert on March 27th, but unfortunately, no clips of that part of the performance have yet surfaced online.

The album kicks off with the crowd-pleasing “3, 2, 1, Nein,” which opens with a sort of escalating synth part, then adds a driving bassline, and what sounds like a sample of Hitler shouting, but it’s too faint for me to tell for sure. Other than the countdown, the only lyrics I can clearly understand are: “Do you speak German? Yeah. Good. No!” and what sounds like “It’s never too late for negativity. If you say yes, then you’re alone.”

“Jetzt” (“Now”) begins with what sounds like a xylophone, adds a whirring synth part, and occasionally features what sounds like clinking bottles, perhaps a nod to D.A.F.’s “Der Räuber and der Prinz” (1981), but it also evokes Fad Gadget’s “Collapsing New People” (1983). The snippets of lyrics I can make out are: “in my life,” something about coming out of the basement, “nothing in my life,” “I go on the computer,” something about shit, and “I see absolutely nothing, not even people.” Then there’s the refrain: “When does the pain start? The pain starts now.” If I’m not paying close enough attention, sometimes the word “wann” sounds almost like “fun,” but as far as I can tell, absolutely nothing fun is happening in this song; it sounds like it might be about a shut-in searching for internet porn, but I’m not sure.

The clanky percussion that opens “Kalt Blut” (a not-quite grammatical “Cold Blood”) is reminiscent of early Einstürzende Neubauten, while the refrain “Kalt Blut, alles gut” tips its hat to D.A.F.’s “Alles ist gut” (1981). (For that matter, Wulfband’s motto, “Gewalt-Tanz und Angriffe gegen alles”“Dance violence and attacks against all/everything”also seems to derive from D.A.F.’s “Alle Gegen Alle.”) The lyrics to “Kalt Blut” are more than a little cheesy (“You want to find that I can’t bleed, that I’m cooler than every other man… It’ll take more than a thousand suns to thaw me”), but the music’s great, so it really doesn’t matter. I’d like to take a moment here to thank Wulfband for introducing me to the word “Mürrischheit” (“surliness”), which I probably never would have encountered otherwise—if, by chance, I ever hear or see this word again, I won’t be able to resist thinking of Wulfband’s masked (presumably grumpy) faces. For better or for worse, I will forever associate “Mürrischheit” with Wulfband.

“Gewalt” (“Violence”) begins with some punching sounds and basically turns into a soundtrack for beating the shit out of someone. If it were used in a movie, it would most likely be in a drunken bar fight scene with people overturning tables, throwing chairs, and smashing bottles over each other’s heads. The vocals are clipped barks, and the only words I can really make out are: “What does the world need? Violence!,”“my hand,” “bloody,” “The blood is the heat if society is too cold,” and something about love and money (perhaps an allusion to D.A.F.’s 1981 Gold und Liebe album). The song title is another nod to D.A.F.’s “Gewalt,” from their 1980 album Die Kleinen Und Die Bösen.

The militant “Attentat” (“Assassination”) has frantic, occasionally gasping vocals, and more clanky percussion complemented with a sample of either an alarm or a ringing telephone, and another sample of a news broadcast in the middle. All I can make out from the lyrics is: “We’re coming with a gift,” “assassination,” what might be “I gave you everything,” and “in the city.” The album’s most subversive song, “Weg” (“Away”), opens with the muted sound of glass shattering, and a boy shouting what sounds like “Los, schnell!” (something like “Go, quickly!”). The singer denounces “your lies,” and sneers, “You really believe that is good taste,” then the call and response refrain consists of “Singing with the children,” followed by the children singing something that sounds like either “Everyone needs to get away” or “Everything must go.” Like “Attentat,” “Panik” incorporates a sample of a German news broadcast and some kind of ringing sound. The only words I can make out are: “They ask that you think ______ politics,” “panic without logic,” and “a little bit of romance.” The least retro-sounding song on the album, “Chaostanzen” features the most Douglas McCarthy-like vocals and the most difficult-to-decipher lyrics. All I understand are the words “going out,” and the beginning of Anna Nörler’s whispered line; at first, it sounds like she says “Dancing in your [something],” but at the end of the song, it sounds more like “Dancing with your beautiful [something].” About ninety percent of “Fick Das” (“Fuck That”) consists solely of yelling “Fick das,” but there’s a cool chanted part that strangely reminds me of the “Thunder” chant in AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.” “SMF” (an abbreviation of “swedische Muttifickers”) also has a bit of a metal vibe to it, along with the most insane-sounding vocals. My favorite song on the album, “Aggressivität” (“Aggression”), is a raucous sing-along with the lyrics: “Aggression. It’s my identity. Only with a punch [do] I allow contact, and I’m very proud of my sole attribute.”

Okay, about “Klappe Bitte Ficken” (“Shut Up, Please Fuck”)… Where do I even begin? Are you ready for a ridiculous story about misheard/misunderstood song lyrics? Because that’s what you’re gonna get! This one threw me for a loop. First, I thought the singer was yelling, “Klappe! Klappe! Bitte! Alle Menschen ficken,” and thought: “Wait… Most humans already fuck. Why is that a special request? This is gonna take more scrutiny.” The vocals by German national Eurovision finalist Ben Ivory are spoken slowly enough that by listening to the song repeatedly, I could make out about half of what he’s saying, or at least transcribe what I think I hear, but I knew that would take time, and my immediate concern was the meaning of the word “Klappe,” which I’d never heard before. When I took German seventeen years ago, the teacher taught us to say “shut up” in the most polite way possible, “Halt den Mund” (roughly, “stop [running] your mouth”), and that was that—we moved on to other things without exploring all the various possibilities for telling someone to shut up. If you read/hear “Klappe” and think “Clap on, clap off,” you’ve got the wrong idea. (And if you sang along with that jingle, you also watched too much TV in the 80s.) I thought “Klappe” might come from the verb “klappen” (“to fold”), but knew it wasn’t being used literally, so I started looking for alternate meanings. The closest I came to finding the correct answer was in the phrase “Halt die Klappe” (“Shut your trap”), but that just confused me because I couldn’t figure out if the word was supposed to be a verb or a noun. Apparently, “Klappe!” is a shortened form of “Halt die Klappe,” so I guess it’s a noun that functions as a verb, similar to how “Schnauze!” (literally, “snout,” but construed as a very rude way to say “Shut up”) is a noun that functions as a verb. It reminds me of a 1993 Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, in which the following exchange takes place:

Calvin: I like to verb words.
Hobbes: What?
Calvin: I take nouns and adjectives and use them as verbs. Remember when "access" was a thing? Now it's something you do. It got verbed…. Verbing weirds language.
Hobbes: Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding.

Finally, I got so frustrated I couldn’t think clearly, so I messaged a German friend and asked, “Hey, what does ‘Klappe Bitte Ficken’ mean?” It takes a lot of restraint to answer that question straight-forwardly. If someone asked me that, I’d be tempted to say, “Go ask your mom!” Maybe she was tempted to say something like that, too, but was too polite to actually do it (thanks, Marsela—you’re a gem!). She wrote back, “It means ‘Shut up, please fuck,’” and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Furthermore, it turned out that the word I thought was “Menschen” is actually “Mädchen” (“girls”), which makes a lot more sense, but unfortunately made me picture a very disappointed Lehrerin sadly shaking her head, saying: “Will those of you who can’t distinguish between ‘Mädchen’ and ‘Menschen’ please move to the back of the room? We have no time to deal with you today. Gar nicht! Wir haben keine Zeit für Ihnen.” I can’t overstate the importance of not confusing “Mädchen” for “Menschen” in this song, as someone might show up looking for a party he wasn’t specifically invited to, and that would be awkward.

Anyway, here’s what I think Ben says, although I’m sure I’ve mangled some of it. The first part sounds like: “Es gibt nur eine Sache die ihnen [or Ihnen] gut gelingt und die beherrschen sie [or Sie] wirklich perfekt, angetrieben von den [Ding?], die sie [or Sie] nicht verstehen kann, und immer [oft?] an Knien beten,” or “There is only one thing that works well for them [or you], and they [or you] control it perfectly, driven by [thing?] that they [or you] can’t understand, and always [frequently?] begging on [a seemingly unspoken “their” or “your”] knees.” Then Sieben or Neun shouts, “Shut up! Shut up! Please, all girls fuck!” There are too many blanks or question marks in the second part for me to make a good guess about its meaning, but it sounds like: “Sie glauben immer noch sie [or Sie] sein [Verhörens?] bestimmt, und endlich [gern?] ______ viel zu viel, verschwenden _____ von seiten ______ Zukunft aus ______ das Jugend das ______ sein stimmt.” The first five words are “You [or they] still believe you [or they],” but that’s all I can parse. If anyone wants to fill in the blanks or correct that, please do! I’ve run out of steam.

After I got an answer regarding the meaning of “Klappe!,” I realized I might have asked the “Bück Dich” question of the decade. If you don’t remember the “Bück Dich” question, here’s the backstory: Basically, you couldn’t peruse a Rammstein forum in the late 90s without seeing a flood of “What does ‘Bück Dich’ mean?” questions. The problem became so bad you started to suspect that half of the people asking already knew the answer, but they continued to ask anyway just to be annoying, or maybe because the temptation to ask a question that would immediately result in fifteen people simultaneously posting “Bend over!” was too great a temptation to resist. It remains to be seen whether the “Klappe!” question has enough legs to become the twenty-first century equivalent of the “Bück Dich” carpet bombing, but I almost hope it does, not least because I’d like to move out of the back of the room at some point.

Wulfband’s Discogs bio states/warns: “Music wise, it's inspired by the early post-punk DAF, and some Messerschmidts would perhaps even suggest that it's a parody thereof? These pondering Messerschmidts should also consider that at least one of the guys looks quite capable of inflicting serious damage if that matter or their German pronunciation would come under debate...” Naturally, my first question was: “What’s a Messerschmidt?” For fellow trivia buffs, “Messerschmitt” is a Swedish slang term for a know-it-all; there’s a well-known joke that goes: "You're such a messerschmitt!" "Don't you mean 'besserwisser'?" "See what I mean?" Before I came across this factoid, however, I stumbled across a photo gallery of the 18th-century German-Austrian sculptor Franz Xaver Messerschmidt’s famous contorted “character heads,” and thought Wulfband’s bio might be referencing him. Some of the faces look constipated, and I’m sure that’s how I looked while trying to figure out “Klappe!” This is probably one of those rabbit holes that easily distracted people are so wont to fall into, but in his short article, “A Little Madness Goes a Long Creative Way,” art historian Donald Kuspit wrote a few things about Messerschmidt that seemed to tie in nicely with Wulfband. First, a little background on Messerschmidt: He suffered a “psychotic break” sometime around 1770, when he started creating the contorted “character heads.” He also had some kind of digestive malady (now thought to be Crohn’s disease) that caused him to attempt to relieve the pain by standing before a mirror and pinching himself beneath the ribs. He recorded his own pained grimaces in his busts. He told a friend he thought he had angered the “Spirit of Proportion,” who sent succubi to torment him in his sleep (Messerschmidt is thought to have remained a virgin).  In 1774, he was passed over for a promised promotion at the Vienna Academy, and forced into retirement. He died in isolation nine years later.

So what does any of this have to do with Wulfband? Well, I thought of Wulfband’s feature-less masks when I read this passage: “The faces have a mask-like frozenness: was Messerschmidt play-acting, trying out and acting out different identities by making different faces? Some of the characters have a strange kinship with the characters portrayed in the commedia della arte, however uncannily tragic they also seem. They certainly are fantastic and weirdly theatrical
pretentiously absurd performance art, as it were, for Messerschmidt is performing himself, as all exhibitionistic performance artists do however much they may pretend to be someone else
whether by the standards of Messerschmidt’s day or ours.”

In the October 2014 Zero Music Magazine interview I mentioned earlier, Higgins, when asked if Wulfband’s angry music is intended to be cathartic, responded: “I sadly cannot claim to know the answer to that question. But you have to admit it is quite a good substitute for actually running around fist-fighting and being angry with people in general?”

Progress’s official Wulfband bio states: “Wulfband, like the wolf, sneaks out from the dark and attacks you. But instead of fangs that pierce you their weapon is crushing beats and driving bass lines with aggressive and deranged vocals. Music that rushes, strikes and thrusts until you submit totally. Wulfband is here to own the EBM-scene.” To further drive home the point, they released a short, cleverly-edited video called Band of Horses vs. Wulfband, showing a herd of gentle horses, serenaded by Band of Horses' 2006 song "The Funeral," being chased down and devoured by a pack of wolves, whose arrival is, of course, heralded by Wulfband's "Panik."

In Kuspit’s article, he writes: "‘Man must completely hide the red of the lip,’ [Messerschmidt] asserts, which can ‘be interpreted as a denial of sexuality, as [art historian Ernst] Kris says, for ‘the lips are the symbol of sexual impulses.’ [Messerschmidt] envies animals, who have ‘vast advantages over man,’ for ‘they knew and sensed many things in nature which were concealed to man,’ suggesting that he wished to be an animalas instinctive as an animal. It seems clear that he sacrificed his instinctshis animal sexuality and animal aggressionwhen he turned away from his early Baroque and Rococo style… I suggest that his denied instincts threatened to erupt, and that the tightly closed lips and mouth in the majority of his character heads reflect his desperate attempt to restrain them, and the difficulty of doing so. His instincts made themselves felt in the symptomatic distortionalmost to the point of grotesquenessof the faces of the heads. It gives them their peculiarly absurd power, for it reflects his powerlessness to control them, indeed, their sudden power over him, threatening to overpower him. In the few cases where their mouths are open, perhaps notably in his laughing self-portrait, the teeth are conspicuously displayed, suggesting a latent hostility. Animals supposedly show the ‘red of the lip’ when they are threatened and threaten in return…. Messerschmidt could not find a socially and artistically respectable way of containing his id, which is why the expressions on the faces of his character heads seem disrespectful and anti-social, not to say provocative. They had to wait for our time to be respected for their artfulness (so-called formal properties), to the extent of being hyped as proto-expressionistic… rather than perversely expressiveconfirming that even the most socially alien art (and socially alienated artist) ends up socialized into respectability…. But Messerschmidt’s character heads, for all their ostentatious yet one-dimensional expressivitywhich gives them their peculiar frozen look, as though the eyes were petrified by what they saw on his inside when they when they were closed on the outsideseem peculiarly characterless…. I suggest that Messerschmidt came to realize, through the unhappy experience of being passed over for an important position and losing his place in society (and thus ‘losing face’), that he had been living an inauthentic existencethat he had become a False Self, a dispensable part of the social machinery of art, to play on [psychoanalyst Donald] Winnicott’s idea that the False Self is like a compliant cog in a social machine.”

Kuspit goes on to say that Messerschmidt’s madness was liberating because it allowed him to be “reborn as an artist,” leaving behind his earlier Baroque, Rococo, and Neoclassical styles to move in a more authentic (in this case, Expressionistic) direction. One has to wonder, then, if Wulfband’s madness also represents a sort of artistic rebirth for them, and if so, how far they’re willing to go. I, for one, hope to find out.





May 13 2015

Jaime Jeske

info@brutalresonance.com
Writer and contributor on Brutal Resonance

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