Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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For christmas, I bought myself a couple of old Tocotronic records, along with their new 10th anniversary B-Sides and videos CD/DVD bundle. Tocotronic are probably the most well-known band of the 'Hamburger Schule', singing mostly in German. Short lo-fi songs about the real problems in the world. Nothing electronic – as many people seem to suspect when first seeing the name.

Although all this makes much more sense when you understand the lyrics, they did also tour the U.S. a while ago and published a record The Hamburg Years with their songs sung in English. Ridiculously German English, that is, which can be quite funny but equally annoying. When singing in German they make good use of the language, sometimes using not-so-usual expressions and nice words that don't lend themselves to translation easily. Not for me, anyway. In the lyrics I quote below, for example, the word Überzahl feels a bit more special than simply majority.

Es ist egal aber album cover. The best ever. Whatever I had of their first records was on a mix tape that Jean made for me (off a tape off a record on a bad stereo) in 1996. Not having a tape deck in regular use anymore, I found myself not listening to sufficient amounts of Tocotronic, thus giving me an excuse to acquire their 1995 Digital ist Besser and Nach der verlorenen Zeit albums with their out of focus photos as covers and the 1997 Es ist egal, aber album on vinyl. The latter one simply has the best record cover ever. Ducks rule.

In short, everyone should have Tocotronic records. At least of the old ones – I don't find their latest offering, Tocotronic too convincing, apart from the song Hi Freaks on it, perhaps. And the recently released 10th anniversary CD is very good as well, having many rare versions on it, including a few English ones. The DVD that's included contains all of their videos along with additional live footage and some extras.

Alle die grauen und die eher doofen Tage,
sind prinzipiell ja eher schwierig zu ertragen.
Doch letztenendes hat man ja keine Wahl,
denn sie sind ja in der Überzahl.

Und alle Mißgeschicke an den genannten Tagen,
sind prinzipiell ja eher schwierig zu ertragen.
Die Menschheit geht bekanntlich durch ein Jammertal, doch stört das manche Menschen offenbar nicht einmal.

Manche Menschen sind, man muß es leider sagen,
prinzipiell ja eher schwierig zu ertragen.
Doch was soll der Kampf und was soll die Qual,
sind ja sowieso in der Überzahl.
In der Überzahl.
In der Überzahl.
In der Überzahl.

In der Überzahl

Other favourites include classic Die Welt kann mich nicht mehr verstehen, which is one of the few danceable songs and includes singing about switching to daylight savings time (a heartfelt screw you should go to the Bloodhound Gang here: Their music isn't only creepy and cheesy but even the only slightly different topic I heard turn up in one of their songs isn't a first...). Then there is Digital ist besser, Du bist ganz schön bedient, Ein Abend im Rotary Club, Freiburg of which there are quite a few electronic remixes from a special remix EP Freiburg v3.0 together with Console who is a part of The Notwist there are of Jackpot; Ich mache meinen Frieden mit Euch, which always reminds me of most of the people I went to school with, Ich verabscheue euch wegen eurer Kleinkunst zutiefst, which reminded my of my boss when I did my civil service; Letztes Jahr im Sommer, Michael Ende, Du hast mein Leben zerstört. OK, those are quite a few I guess, so what's the point of this list?

January 10, 2004, 2:08

Tagged as lang:de.


Comment by Ger: User icon

Someone told me that Tocotronic were like a German Franz Ferdinand. I didnt think so. A bit too laid back for my tastes, kinda monotonic. And i can understand the lyrics

February 2, 2005, 0:02

Comment by ssp: User icon

In a very weak way Tocotronic could be regarded similar to Franz Ferdinand but that similarity won’t go very far as Tocotronic just aren’t flashy, energetic or optimistic enough.

Also, I’m only speaking of their early records, not the 2003 and 2005 ones, which I consider to be rather boring.

February 2, 2005, 3:23

Comment by Dillan: User icon

I don’t really think Tocotronic can be compared to Franz Ferdinand—- they simply aren’t jaunty enough. A completely different sound. Although I do think that every once and a while little bits of Tocotronic songs could be little bits of Libertines songs. Although I quite prefer the Libertines to Franz Ferdinand anyway.

June 22, 2006, 18:03

Comment by sophie: User icon

Hi, You don’t know me, i don’t know you, but i like your textes… ..and i like Tocotronic. I’d liked it since I was 13. It’s a Band, whos just likeable, I mean, maybe they are not incredible in playing their instruments, but they are honest, and their textes are great, you can find yourself in their textes. They just do their own thing, and aren’t influenced by any famous band, and they are definitly no commerceband… But all that, all I wrote, is about their old things, Digital ist besser, Es ist Egal, aber, Nach der Verlorenen Zeit, etc.. I really don’t like the new albums.. they are boring, wannabe-adult, and… I don’t know - not so special.

So, i still listening to Tocotronic, even though i’ve heard it 1000 times..

(sorry for my bad english, i’m from austria)

October 30, 2006, 1:55

Comment by kabl00ey: User icon

Tocotronic are great. When we moved to Hamburg for six months, my supervisor/boss/friend (who I’d moved to Germany to work with) played the ‘Er Ist Egal, Aber album’ to me. Now I’m back in New Zealand and I’m listening to it again, and it really reminds me of Hamburg. Honest, to-the-point songs, and great guitar. Whilst ‘Nach Bahrenfeld im Bus’ would have to be a favourite (we lived in Bahrenfeld, and caught the bus home regularly - particularly from Altona) I really like the energy and humour of ‘Gehen die Leute’.

October 4, 2007, 2:31

Comment by ssp: User icon

I keep thinking that I should catch a bus to Bahrenfeld when I’m in Hamburg just because of that song :) Never did it so far, though…

October 4, 2007, 11:26

Comment by Wendy: User icon

Tocotronic are one of these bands that get stuck in your mind. i reckon they’re really unique. sorta anti heroes. i love them to bits and no, i don’t get any of the lyrics coz i don’t speak german and yet. and yet.

if you check out some of their live videos on youtube, you’ll see just how much energetic they are. in short, Franz Ferdinand could only dream of ever being this cool.

February 17, 2008, 23:51

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