Harmonia’s complete works, The Simple Pleasure’s earworms
If you have a magic volcano that continually spits out nuggets of gold, one might think that, eventually, it might peter out. But when this writer considers delving into the adventurous rock music that came out of Germany in the early-to-mid ’70s, often referred to generally as the originally jokey term “Krautrock” or its synth-leaning cousin Kosmische musik, it seems like the treasures just keep coming for those willing to zoom in on that time and place.
One might be content with a few Kraftwerk and Can records, but this writer urges interested parties to keep digging, even beyond the essentials from NEU!, Faust and Popol Vuh, and be rewarded—Julian Cope’s “A Krautrock Top 50” is a great hunting guide.
The new 6-LP vinyl boxed set Complete Works by Harmonia makes it easy to experience one of the most satisfying collaborations of that era, featuring Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius of Cluster with guitarist Michael Rother of NEU!, and the already-initiated will be pleased with the excellent 30-plus minutes of previously unreleased material on Documents 1975.
Unlike NEU!, which found a degree of success, Rother said Harmonia was a “financial, commercial disaster,” but the group had unfettered creative freedom by being disconnected, working in the rural town of Forst.
Cluster’s fascinating and uncompromising early ’70s work was often abstract, noisy, messy and eerily processed, and NEU!’s trademark quality was its momentum; Harmonia seemed to smash the two together, being more focused, rhythmic and structured than early Cluster but still with an exploratory and improvisational feel.
Complete Works features the Harmonia’s two albums released during its lifetime—Musik von Harmonia and Deluxe—the double-album collaboration with Brian Eno (who called Harmonia the “world’s most important rock” group) Tracks & Traces, Live 1974 released in 2007 and the aforementioned Documents 1975.
There are too many high points to cover, but the range of moods captured is astounding, from the unwinding melodies with heartbeat on the ambient “Sehr Kosmisch” on Musik von Harmonia to the stirring 11-minute live track recorded at Fabrik and Hamburg on Documents 1975, with a driving, kinetic energy, like a caffeinated NEU!
It’s an eruption of riches for the newcomer, and with digitally remastered sound and previously unreleased tracks, irresistible for the longtime fan.
The Simple Pleasure
The Glamour of It All
Having witnessed the Philadelphia duo The Simple Pleasure perform two absolutely insanely ecstatic Chattanooga house shows within the last year, this writer has no reason to believe that singer/composer/front man Chad Raines and singer/bassist Admiral Grey (also of Cellular Chaos) shouldn’t be arena-touring stars. They clearly their work seriously but never themselves seriously with a tight new-wave pop approach, humor infusions and lyrical turns that tilt favorably on the clever/stupid divide.
The new album The Glamour of It All is currently only available as MP3 files on a USB flash drive that looks like an open tube of red lipstick with the band’s name printed on it in a minuscule font. It covers a year of mischief and misadventures through an assortment of earworms, starting with “Happy New Year” and concluding with “Xmas at Seaworld,” with sequenced synthesizers (and a love of fake saxophones and marimbas), drum machines and choice guitar flourishes.
There’s no indie-rock detachment or timidness here; Raines throws himself unabashedly into the proceedings, unleashing a soul-pop falsetto voice (think Prince on “Kiss”) on “Happy New Year.”
It’s followed by the upbeat stomper “Sorry Dad, (I’m Straight)” with lines like “You wanna live, you better have endurance / You wanna die, you better have insurance” and a George Michael obsession.
If there’s a track with comedy crossover hit potential, it’s “Milfshake,” conveying a fetish for the kale-eating, hot-yoga mom type, running through a baffling list of stereotypes mixed with more odd details and euphemisms (“Your mom and me, making fresh kimchi”). In it, Admiral Grey rattles off a bewildering tongue-twisting sequence, possibly employing the word “labiaplasty” for the first time in a pop song, and tosses off rhymes like “When I look at you, my ovaries sway inside my St. John’s Bay.”
While the goofiness of The Lonely Island or Electric Six may be points of comparison, The Simple Pleasure strikes its own chord with easy-to-like synth-pop offerings that are actually more clever—musically and lyrically—than one might think.