A few days ago, Peter Unfried of the left-leaning German daily taz interviewed Markus Berges, singer and songwriter for the German pop band Erdmöbel. I’ve raved about Erdmöbel before in this blog, and here’s a short summary: the lyrics are drenched with longing, but not sentimental; the music is graceful, hook-ridden, and elegantly orchestrated.
In short, Erdmöbel are the most interesting pop band in Germany. If they sung in English, they would be beloved of pop conoisseurs worldwide, as are Beth Orton or Everything But the Girl. But for now, only those of us
boneheaded enlightened enough to have learned German can fully enjoy these gems. (But yes! Buy the records for the music alone, if you don’t understand German.)
The goody-two-shoes green/socialists of the taz are suspicious. Isn’t it a little frivolous to just make lovely pop songs? The title of the article, "Rock against Nothing At All", is almost an accusation. Like a dog worrying at a bone, taz writer Unfried tries to get some sort of political opinion out of Berges.
Berges is much too clever for that. He toyed with punk when he was younger, he admits, but quickly found it a dead end; people who have to demonstrate their principled rejection of bourgeois conformity box themselves into equally boring little ghettos of non-bourgeois conformity, and end up just whining about the world in general.
Well, fine, the taz writer says. But aren’t you then just producing relaxing adult pop that permits high-IQ capitalist drones "to go out next morning and pursue [their own] individual economic goals full of elan?"
You can almost hear Berges sigh. "You can’t just pull an Ermöbel song out of an automat to satisfy a certain need," he objects. Unfried visits a concert. The music is gorgeous, he admits, but Ermöbel have short hair, don’t call attention to themselves, and seem focussed on the music. Suspicious, Unfried resumes the inquisition. Can taz readers be sure that Berges doesn’t vote for the conservative party (CDU)? Berges smiles: "I understand the impulse. I’d also like to be sure that someone whose art I treasure doesn’t vote CDU. But that’s all nonsense. Because I know that art has its own independent existence, even if it’s just a pop song."