Wir Sind Helden

If you tried to form a Indie band in the UK these days with a pretty lass for a lead singer and some deadbeat-looking guys dressed from an Oxfam shop as backup you’d be laughed out of town as second-rate 90’s throwbacks. Thing is, in Germany they don’t have that Britpop baggage to carry around, which is why Wir Sind Helden sound so fresh and new. With the willowy, vixen-faced beauty Judith Holofernes on vocals you could easily be forgiven for thinking they look just like another bunch of female-fronted Sleeper wannabes. Once the vocals chime in however, any comparisons with Louise Wener come to an abrupt end.

bwsh_dierekl.jpg4 starsDie Reklamation
(The Complaint, 100% native)
Brilliant debut. standout tracks : ‘Guten Tag’, ‘du Erkennst Mich Nicht Wieder’ (You Don’t Recognise Me Anymore), ‘Denkmal’ (Memorial).

WSH have won a ton of awards in Germany over the past couple of years and deservedly so. They sing nearly 100% in German and I like to think of them as the quirky dudes of the Indie scene. Always melodic (Guten Tag/Die Reklamation), sometimes outrageously vaudeville (Aurélie/Die Reklamation) and occasionally melancholy without ever getting into the angst-ridden danger zone of Alanis Morrisette – a good example being ‘Du Erkennst Mich nicht Wieder’ [You don’t recognise me anymore] surely one of the standout tracks from Die Reklamation although not one I’d ever choose as a single.

wsh_vonhier.jpg4 starsVon Hier An Blind
(From here to Wherever, 100% native)

Great follow-up. As rich and varied musically as its predecessor. Standout tracks : ‘Von Hier An Blind’, ‘Nur Ein Wort’ (Just a Word), ‘Wenn Es Passiert’ (When it Happens), ‘Echolot’ (Depth Sounder), ‘Gekommen Um Zu Bleiben’ (Come To Stay).

WSH’s first Album, 2003’s Die Reklamation, is a real slow-burner as my pal Johnny B. likes to say. The tunes are infectious, sung with vigour and the replacement of ‘standard’ second guitar with a portable synth adds a total new dimension to the usual Indie fuzz, as on the intro to Rüssel An Schwanz (Head to Tail). Lyrically WSH are one of the best around – themes sway from consumerism to lost love to subversion to German flirting techniques – with vocals that are soft, powerful and feature the the kind of jerky scansion that will have students of German tied up in verbal knots if they try to sing along. (Incidentally, if learning the German language is your game then try out the Helden Karaoke embedded as a PC feature on Die Reklamation. It plays anti-marketing anthem Guten Tag with its bubbly Rammstein-esque keyboard intro sans vocals – it’s kind of like singing Peter Piper at breakneck speed while glugging from a bottle of Becks).

2005’s follow-up Von Hier An Blind shows the Helden are here to stay. As usual the musical styles are varied – on the swinging ‘Gekommen Um Zu Bleiben’ the Helden couldn’t be more Big Band if they’d morphed into a 15-piece and started doing the Charleston. ‘Echolot’ is yet another example of their ability to produce the kind of tunes which may not catch your attention immediately, yet somehow after the 3rd or 4th play you wonder how the hell you missed it first time round. ‘Echolot’, like ‘Du Erkennst…’ is a plaintive cry between two lovers perfectly suited to Ms. Holofernes’ voice – a track that just grows and grows while the title track with its jaunty Cast-like intro is a poppy affair that wouldn’t be out of place as an offering from their fellow countrymen Virginia Jetzt.

WSH aren’t as accessible as other German bands but if you’re new to German pop then think of the Helden as a great second course to the entrée of say, Virginia Jetzt.

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