Toten Hosen

In compiling my Kraut Pop guide I wanted to introduce any English-speaking music fans to a narrow slice of German popular music. Keeping each section succint and to the point was my aim but the thing about the Hosen is that they’ve been there and done it all – two paragraphs ain’t gonna do them justice.

dth_flagge.jpg2 stars Unter Falscher Flagge

Under the Wrong Flag (90% native)

This early Hosen album sounds like a bunch of pals having fun in a Düsseldorf pub. Lot’s of songs about drinking – nothing special.

More than just a German national institution this Düsseldorf 5-piece have now been around for well over 20 years and still retain what we in the UK like to call the ‘common touch’ – when I lived in Düss lead singer Campino was often spotted at my friends’ gym slogging it out on the treadmill; no £20K-a-year George Michael-style London spa for this bloke. Campino, incidentally, is also a Liverpool FC nut and when not touring can regularly be seen at home games cheering on his pal Dietmar Hamman from the Kop while stuffing his face with dodgy Scouse burgers.

DTH - Damenwahl3 starsDamenwahl
Ladies Choice (90% native)

The nascent DTH sound starts to peek through. Standout tracks: ‘Wort zum Sonntag’ (Sunday Sermon), ‘Großalarm’ (Red Alert).

The Hosen fan base covers the whole spectrum from young lassies to ageing rockers and, for some reason I’ve yet to fathom, they are massive in South America, particularly Argentina. They’ve come a long way from their early days as a glorified pub band singing about Altbier, Korn and the like but the great thing is they’ve never forgotten those roots and the sense of humour they had then has been dragged kicking and squealing alongside their commercial success. On ‘Opium . . .’ there is a mock interview featuring an over-earnest reporter castigating the band for their past obsession with alcohol. Someone (Kuddel?) agrees wholeheartedly claiming that when seeing starving children on the TV he could never conceive of singing about Bommerlunder (a form of rocket fuel). There immediately follows ‘Zehn Kleiner Jägermeister’, which has since become one of the most popular Sauflieder (drinking anthems) heard now in every pub in every ski resort on the German-speaking side of the Jura.

DTH - Ein Kleines Bisschen Horrorschau2 starsEin Kleines Bisschen Horrorschau
A Tiny Little Horror Show (100% native)

Starting to find their feet. More direction, sharper protests. Standout tracks: ‘Hier Kommt Alex’, ‘Mehr davon’ (More).

When it comes to politics and attitude DTH take their cue from the punk of old with a strong social conscience kind of veering towards good ol’ anarchy: think Clash, Sex Pistols and The Jam (before Paul Weller fell in love with Thatch). The Hosen sound meanwhile, is more akin to The Ramones tuned up a bit, although recently they’ve diversified massively – Unsterblich being a brilliant example of what they can do when the guitars are unplugged and they let things just chill.

DTH - Never Mind the...1stars-copy.gifNever Mind the Hosen here’s Die Roten Rosen

(100% native)

The lads give the Hosen treatment to a selection of 60’s and 70’s German hits. I’ve met deranged alcoholics in the Düsseldorf Altstadt who will disown this.

DTH - Larning English . . .3 starsLearning English Lesson One

(0% native)

DTH pay tribute to their UK/US influences from the Ramones to the Vibrators by way of Sham 69. Campino’s English accent is damn good and the album cover has me in stitches. Interesting but for die hards only.

If you find yourself professing a liking for the Hosen while sausage-side then don’t be surprised if you get a few odd looks – it’s kind of like going to Manchester and saying how much you like the Stone Roses, kind of a given. But that’s not to say familiarity has bred contempt, DTH are still much loved as I saw a few years back when I went to their 1000th concert in Düsseldorf’s Rheinstadion – like Oasis at Maine Road but twice as good.

DTH - Opium . . .5 starsOpium Fürs Volk

Opium for the Masses (100% native)

Truly outstanding. This is the point when DTH became a serious band. The gurning and political ranting is replaced with more targeted protests and a harder, more sinister edge plus with ‘Er denkt…’ there’s a touching tribute to the power of everlasting love. Standout tracks: ‘Bonnie und Clyde’, ‘Viva la Revolucion’, ‘Paradies’, ‘Er Denkt, sie Denkt’ (He thinks, she thinks).

There’s a few gaps in my discography here but a pointer or two towards the good stuff should catch your eye as should, hopefully, a warning away from the dross.

DTH - Im Auftrag . . . 4 starsIm Auftrag des Herren
On Behalf of the Gentlemen (80% native)

An excellent live album. A cross-section of the DTH catalogue with little from the early years, and, as you would expect, totally uncompromising. Campino’s rasping vocals are even better live than in the studio. The spooky version of ‘Böser Wolf’ (Evil Wolf) will have the goosepimples going. Standout tracks : ‘Hier kommt Alex’ (Here comes Alex), ‘Alles aus Liebe’ (From Love, Everything), ‘Nichts Bleibt für die Ewigkeit’ (Nothing Lasts Forever), ‘Mehr Davon’ (More).

DTH - christkind . . 1stars-copy.gifDie Roten Rosen-Wir Warten auf’s Christkind
Waiting for the Christ child (90% native)

DTH do Xmas carols.

Utter bollox.

DTH - Unsterblich . . 4 starsUnsterblich
Immortal (90% native)

Brilliant. Well-produced and with a rich range of themes this is a corker. Standout tracks : ‘Warum Werde Ich Nicht Satt?’ (Why Am I Never Happy?), ‘Wofür Man Lebt’ (Why We Live), ‘Regen’ (Rain) and not forgetting the excellent title track.

DTH - auswaertsspiel . . 3 starsAuswartsspiel
Away Game (90% native)

There’s a slightly tired feel to this album as if it followed too close on the heels of its predecessor. Standout track ‘Nur Zum Besuch’ (Only for a Visit) however, showcases again the Hosen ability to give a unique and powerful take on lost love.

DTH - zurueck...2 starsZurück zum Glück
Back to the Good Times (95% native)

Powerful, hard-hitting and, if ‘Die Behauptung’ (The Claim) is any indication, often ear-shreddingly pish. Overall frankly lacking in imagination. Standout tracks : ‘Herz Brennt’ (Heart Burns), ‘Freunde’ (Friends).

DTH - En Mision...4 starsEn Misión Del Señor – Live in Buenos Aires (DVD)

(80% native)

Great music and behind the scenes rock-docudrama featuring a collapsing stage and totally insane fans. Spoiled only by Campino’s naff attempt at singing in Spanish. And on disc 2 there’s a classic piece by a typically over-earnest German TV presenter interviewing people queueing for the concert: “What do you like about Die Toten Hosen?” Unkown to her, Vom (DTH drummer) is in the queue for a laugh and says some wonderfully disparaging things about his own band. The look on her shocked face as she asks the cameraman to “cut that bit” is a classic.

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