Here's another covers album, a trend that took off during COVID and will probably keep going for the foreseeable future. This is another unusual one, though, taking perhaps the opposite approach to the A. A. Williams album I reviewed last week. She took alternative rock songs and stripped them down to a vocal/piano approach, while Die Krupps here take indie pop songs and jazz them up with guitar and heavy keyboards to what could be called techno industrial.
Now, I hadn't read the track titles before diving in so I made notes about potential nods in the opener, The Number One Song in Heaven, to Enter Sandman and Walk on the Wild Side. I didn't know this song and I didn't know the one after it either, so it was the third song that got me. Hang on, I thought, isn't this Devo? Yes indeed, it's Whip It, their most famous song. And that's followed by as iconic a track as (Don't Fear) The Reaper, so I read up and discovered that it's entirely a covers album.
Now, (Don't Fear) The Reaper is melodic/hard rock but nothing else here fits that bill. There are a few other songs that tend to be played by rock radio stations, but Another One Bites the Dust wasn't ever really a rock song to begin with, even if Queen were often a rock band, and No More Heroes, originally by the Stranglers, is more obscure nowadays, even though it's still a classic. I'm not going to hear that on my local classic rock station. (Don't Fear) The Reaper is fascinating in this version, recognisable to everyone but utterly different. There's no cowbell, for a start and the famous guitar riff is turned into synths, though there is a guitar solo over the top of it.
Everything else is what I'd call pop music, albeit indie pop music rather than mainstream pop music, a note that trumps however well some of these songs did in the charts back in the day. Most of them are British and they're sourced from a very brief preiod in time. (Don't Fear) The Reaper is the earliest of these songs, dating back to 1976, and the most latest is MCL's New York, originally from 1987, but over half the songs here were released in the three year period from 1979 to 1981.
They include bands I've heard but don't know too well, like Devo, Gang of Four and Sparks, whose song opened the album, meaning that no, there's no Enter Sandman nod even if the Walk on the Wild Side one is real. I knew the Queen, of course, and I may have heard B-Movie's Marilyn Dreams, but I don't think I've even heard of the Neon Judgement, who originated the second song here, the gothy Chinese Black. I'll have to check it out, because I quite like this version. I need to know if the Sisters of Mercy vibe was there all along or if Die Krupps added it, given that the guest musician on this track is Jyrki 69 of Finnish gothic rock band 69 Eyes.
There are other guests here too and some certainly change the dynamics of the song they're guesting on. While most of this album plays in that a techno industrial vein, even (Don't Fear) The Reaper with a guitar solo from James Williamson of the Stooges, To Hell with Poverty, the Gang of Four song, has a very different vibe. The guitars totally dominate this one, thought the guest is Big Paul Ferguson, the drummer of Killing Joke. It's a very punky, anarchic version, an anomaly on this album but, with those drums, not one that seems entirely out of place. The other guest is Ross the Boss, of Manowar fame, who lends an able hand on No More Heroes, which is neatly heavy because of that.
I'm surprised at how much I liked this album and perhaps that's a nostalgia thing. I found rock music in 1984 but I'd been devouring pop music for a few years by then, reading Smash Hits and watching Top of the Pops. My idol at that point was Adam Ant, courtesy of Stand and Deliver and Prince Charming and I still listen to him often today, but I was there as the post punk era prompted the birth of a dozen new genres and I learned a lot. I certainly didn't understand how revolutionary a time it was back then but I the wide variety definitely spoke to me. It apparently spoke to Die Krupps too because they mine it well here.
Now, this isn't remotely the rabbit hole that the recent Monster Magnet covers album was, but I still plan on tracking down the songs that Die Krupps cover on this album. I'm especially intrigued by that Neon Judgement song but also the MCL, the Fad Gadget and the Gang of Four. I like discovery.