It was John Darnielle’s dirty, fizzley, basement-boom-box recordings that first trained me to turn a deaf ear to scrappy guitar and to love music that did little more than tell a damn fine story. The Mountain Goats’ early recordings are the music that macheted the way for what would come into my headphones after: anti-folk. (They are also partially to blame for the folk punk, but that’s another story.)
Anti-folk music covers a whole range of sounds, but generally it’s silly and irreverent. It usually isn’t the pristine guitar licks or a perfect melody, but the detailed, satirical lyrics that take center stage. Though a lot of music snobs have a hard time getting past the musical hollowness of much of the genre, I really love it. LOVE IT. As a singer and a writer it was always the melodies and the lyrics that got me anyway. Kimya Dawson is one of the genre’s royalty. Jeffrey Lewis is another favorite of mine. And then there’s Phoebe Kreutz.
I discovered Phoebe Kreutz’s music quite by accident. Back when my band used to be called Black Diamond Express Train to Hell, we played a show in Cologne with her. She was awesome. We played another show with her, years later, in Mainz. She was still awesome. Her lyrics were hilarious and tight. She wrote songs about books (A Bad Feeling About Anna Karenina and The Lonesomest Dove on the F). She wrote songs about straight edge kids and her bum and Queen Elizabeth and being in a horrible mood. All of which were hilarious and fantastic. We (being the Black Diamonds) quickly became the people at the show who could sing along to all the songs.
Well, Phoebe is back in Germany, on tour with her trumpeting companion Matt Colbourn. Last night at No.2 Records in Frankfurt Sachsenhausen they played a few ditties while my husband and I distracted our baby by letting her flip through the rows of CDs and plastic-covered vinyl.
A Canadian electro pop duo had started the night, and between the white walls and shelves of records and cds people stood bobbing their heads to the music. I always like record-shop concerts for the atmosphere, for the fact that they are usually non-smoking, and for the mass of things to look at between bands and songs.
Phoebe’s set was filled with the usual funny, sweet, upbeat songs she is known for writing. My favorite of the night was called The Day the Basement Flooded. It starts with her basement in New York flooding, and ends with the thought that, well hell, if the world ends, I want to be with you, baby. You wouldn’t think it would be possible to write a totally sweet, upbeat end times love song, but she did it. So have a watch. Listen closely to the lyrics. Enjoy.
Another great song that she played was Frankenstein about the perils of certain lines of scientific investigation. How there are certain things that, when you investigate, turn out to be monsters. I’ve been listening to these two on repeat all morning.
And this is Click Clack Gorilla signing out and proving again that music in Germany isn’t all Rammstein and techno…