Armagideon Time

During the course of my K-Tel research, I occasionally stumble across some oddity relevant to my musical interests. The overwhelming majority of these are international releases, which makes locating the items in question a nigh impossible task. The few that do turn up on the secondary marketplaces tend to be prohibitive expensive or include some alarmingly coy (and awkwardly translated) descriptions of the record’s condition.

Taken together, they present a bridge too far to justify indulging a mild sense of curiosity, but there have been a few occasions when the stars of availability, asking price, and condition align. That’s how I ended up with a copy of Die Neuen Spitzen.

The record — whose title roughly translates to “The New Edge” — is a sixteen-track collection of German-language new wave acts.

A1 Falco – Maschine Brennt
A2 Jawoll – Taxi
A3 Minisex – Du Kleiner Spion
A4 Spinning Wheel – Im Dschungel
A5 The Tanzdiele – Musik, Musik, Musik
A6 Clinch – Hallo Vater
A7 Relax – I Wui Schlafa
A8 Neue Heimat – Ich Bau’ Dir Ein Schloß

B1 ZaZa - Zauberstab
B2 Bärchen Und Die Milchbubis – Muskeln
B3 Pavian Band – Eigenheim
B4 Karl Und Seine Band – Nie Mehr Schule
B5 Spastic Elastic – Ich Kann Nicht Glücklich Sein
B6 Zeitgeist – Es Lebe Die Lebendigkeit
B7 Combo Colossale – Puppen Weinen Nicht
B8 Telefunk – Ta-Tü Ta-Ta, Die Post Ist Da!

All but the blessed Falco were unfamiliar to me, making this a fascinating romp into uncharted territory. I’m not sure what I expected from it, other than exploring a general interest in non-Anglophone punk ‘n’ wave that I’ve had since the days of the Back to Front collections and series of fan-curated “Flexipop” minimal synth anthologies. The Teutonic connection goes back even further, to my tweener Top 40 days when acts like Falco, Trio, Nena, and Taco (who was actually Netherlands-based, but whatever) scored a few hits and a decent bit of airplay on this side of the Atlantic. Their sound jibed well with the Cold War jitters of the day, technopop ditties from the fortified frontier of the impending Armageddon.

It’s the region that produced Can and Kraftwerk but also elevated David Hasselhoff to platinum-selling godhood, and Die Neuen Spitzen roster of artists span the spectrum from art-damaged minimalism to commercially packaged Limburger. These highs and lows are spread out between ample doses of synthesized dance-pop constructed along the Human League/Heaven 17/Depeche Mode model (but featuring more words ending in “ch”).

As a result, the tracks tend to blend together over the course of the album, especially for listeners whose knowledge of the language doesn’t extend past a single year of German in high school. That’s not a mark against the compilation. My K-Tel affection is based on holistic experiences rather than the strength of individual cuts, and Die Neuen Spitzen blend of arty-poppy-cheesy perfectly evokes a vivid conception of place and moment — somewhere between “sitting on the family sofa watching Mummenschanz perform on The Muppet Show” and “a West Berlin new wave club a couple of blocks from Checkpoint Charlie.

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  3. Do K-Tel #15: Hit Express (1982)

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