Friday, July 24, 2015

Wir Sind Helden

Today's blog is interactive! The first thing I'd like you to do is listen to the song below - it's called Guten Tag, and it's by a German band called Wir Sind Helden.

Pretty fun, right? Kinda goofy-sounding? It even had a cheesy truck driver's gear change in the middle!

At this point, I'd like you to grab a pen and write down what you think Guten Tag is about. Don't think too hard about it - just jot down the first thing that popped into your head when you heard it.

(Incidentally, I don't speak German, and this entire game kind of hinges on the assumption that you don't either. If you do speak fluent German, apologies - today's blog will probably seem kind of dumb to you.)

Right, next thing: watch the video for Guten Tag (below) and see if it's what you would have expected.

Now, by and large, I think that video suits the song pretty well. The stop-motion comic book stuff seems entirely appropriate for Guten Tag's wide-eyed, sugar-rush sound, and the band look like they're having fun, so...yeah.

However, here's one frame that (perhaps unsurprisingly) caught my eye:

Now, again, I don't speak German, so I only have a vague idea of what's going on in the Guten Tag video. However, I understand the word 'sex', and this thought bubble seems to suggest that both the song and its video have a slightly darker underbelly than one might initally suppose.

Here's my best guess: the owner of that thought bubble is an A&R man who spots Wir Sind Helden rehearsing, likes what he's hearing, and decides to sign them for his label. He convinces them it's because they have a 'cool sound' or whatever, but really, he just thinks that a band with a female singer will be good for hella euros because, well, sex.

Side Note: If anyone ever makes a Wir Sind Helden biopic, Paul Giamatti would be PERFECT for the guy in the light blue jacket and lavender tie.

But, okay, enough guesswork - let's get some hard facts. Here are some of Guten Tag's lyrics:
Guten tag, guten tag! Ich will mein leben zurück!
Ich tausch nicht mehr, ich will mein leben zurück!
Guten tag, ich gebe zu ich war am anfang entzückt,
Aber euer leben zwickt und drückt nur dann nicht wenn man sich bückt -
Guten tag!
And here's a rough English translation (taken from the awesome
Hello, hello! I want my life back!
I'm not swapping any more, I want my life back!
Hello, I admit I was captivated at the start,
But your life only hurts and pushes you down just as you're bending over-
Now, even with the translation, I'm still a little unclear on what exactly that lot means, but Guten Tag is starting to seem less like the superfun theme song for Wir Sind Helden's own Saturday morning cartoon and more like a breathless, furious rant against consumerist culture. Elsewhere in that translation, there are lines like, "My voice for a mobile phone, my fists for your nail lacquer" - this makes it sound like Judith Holofernes feels like she herself is being sold, which I suppose ties in with that "KONSUMKRITIK + SEX = €" thought bubble quite nicely. That label guy doesn't want to sell Wir Sind Helden's music - he wants to sell them, their image, and in particular, Judith Holofernes's sexuality.

I don't know what you're saying but FUCK YOU BUDDY

And, as it turns out, the other tracks on Die Reklamation are similarly outraged. Denkmal, for example, is all about smashing monuments with a sledgehammer, while Heldenzeit ('Hero Time' or 'Time for Heroes') is a very strong statement of the band's intentions: "Welcome to hero time, are you ready? Are you ready? We're coming to remove other heroes."

Now that you know all this, take another look at that bit of paper you wrote on earlier. I'm guessing your original answer seems kind of silly now - like Helen Love (whom I wrote about earlier this week), Wir Sind Helden are great at disguising dark, gritty lyrics with fun, bubbly pop music, and in a way, that makes their points all the more potent when they are finally revealed.

It's just a shame that we, the German-illiterates of the world, aren't able to see those points without the aid of Google Translate.

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