I suppose it’s apropos that I have a sad German song stuck in my head on the day after Die Mannschaft lost to Spain, 1-0, in the 2008 European Championship, leaving at least the older of my two nephews -- the younger went to bed at the half -- feeling sad and groggy at school today. (German schools in Saxony were told they could open two hours late this morning, as most of their young students would have been up way past their bedtimes watching the final and getting acquainted with the common disappointments of sports fandom. In true German fashion, all schools opted to open on time as usual.)
At any rate, “sad and groggy” is also an apt description for the music of the Notwist, a German band that began its existence making a sort of Intelligent Death Metal (the other I.D.M.), only to release an acclaimed album of smart, melodic, digitally enhanced, Radiohead-inspired songs on their 2002 album “Neon Golden.” I first heard the record at Kim’s Video on St. Mark’s Place not long after it was released. I walked in looking for something else, happened to hear it on the store’s stereo, and listened to it pretty much from start to finish. The clerk told me what it was that I’d been so immediately enamored by, and I plunked down some ridiculous amount of money for what was at the time only available as a pricey import.
The band took six years to put out another record, having been involved with various side projects, none of which were as interesting as “Neon Golden.” And so, after half a dozen years, one couldn’t have been faulted for hoping for something commensurately brilliant with their next album proper. What the Notwist have instead produced is a record with limited highlights: two or three songs that could have been okay singles, with the rest sounding like material from the last record that didn’t make the cut. Among the few very nice moments is title track, “The Devil, You + Me” (a full version of which I can’t find anywhere online, I’m sorry to say). Imagine Nick Drake with access to Pro Tools and a drum machine and you kind of get the picture. As German defender Christoph Metzelder said after yesterday’s loss, “I think we have much more quality to show and we have to improve.” Hear that, Notwist?