Like Japan, another burgeoning post-war industrial giant looking for culture in all the wrong places, Germany has to do its global bit in the abject scavenging and silly recycling of American junk with merry abandon. A quick look at the early scrap operation mounted by this hyperactive Bremen sextet reveals a band name nicked from the B-52’s, an album title skimmed off Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and a record label named after a Big Star song. The group’s colophon, however, is more locally relevant: the anti-fascist symbol of a swastika being dumpsterized.
And that’s not even getting into the chipper and imaginatively loopy music contained on the Large Marge Sent Us! CD, which incorporates the crappy-sounding, rock’n’rolly seven-cut Tweng! mini-album and three single sides: a total of two dozen short blasts of derivative but original Anglo-American power pop sung mainly in English by guitarist Klaus Cornfield. Introducing a liquid theme that evidently means a lot to him, Cornfield ventures “Under Water” amid splashy sound effects. Even when pining for transportation and affection (“I Wish I Had a Car”), Throw That Beat! keeps its smileyface spirit; a rudimentary resemblance to the Television Personalities stops at the point of the Germans’ happy-go-lucky emotional outlook.
Strewing giddy ideas around like ticker tape (“A Chocolatbar for Breakfast,” “You Only Think of Me, …When There’s No Program on TV,” “I Dedicate My Life to You,” “Little Red Go-Cart,” the comically self-aware “I’m Like a Baby” and the sci-fi miscegenation of “Some Alien…”), Not Particularly Silly refines the band’s elements into pure pop joy, a danceable sugar rush of simple harmony singing, catchy tunes, hearty guitar elbow grease, organ accents (by the woman who calls herself Iwie Candy X07) and Alex Sticht’s peppy drumming. Lotsi Lapislazuli steps up for more lead vocals, giving the band a two-headed sound and moving the seventeen-cut collection along without having to stop for breath. Don’t pay any mind to the album title: they are and it is, and that’s good for all concerned.
Released in the US (identical in contents save for the addition of an unlisted ode to a mouse, but minus the spectacular cartoon insert) as The Cool Album to differentiate it from the confusingly titled and half-overlapping four-song Cool EP, Cool takes a calmer, more considered musical approach (there’s lots more Lotsi and a full dollop of ABBA in the blend) and allows adult uncertainty to infect the lyrics. With the piano bounce of “Je Pense Toujours à Toi” revealing another facet of the band’s sound (and language skills), “It’s Never Enough,” “A Last Kiss,” “Over & Over,” “Angels Don’t Cry” and “Too Blue” (heralded by trumpet blares) all rue love’s losses in bittersweet pop confections.
With Lotsi gone, the quintet drafted guest vocalists Janas Hoyt (moonlighting from Indiana’s Vulgar Boatmen) and Gina Vaporjieff D’orio to help on Superstar. Slickly produced to far more of a regular rock’n’roll sound than usual for Throw That Beat!, the record sacrifices a lot of the band’s pop charm and most of its innocence; despite a few moments that are clearly intended as audio in-jokes (in the spirit of the Pooh Sticks), it’s hard to tell how serious the squealing and roaring guitars, repetitive choruses, strings (on Iwie’s “I’m Your Trip”) and Cornfield’s exaggerated singing are. Some of his songs aren’t half bad (“I Won’t Give Up,” “Let Me Sit Next to Iwie,” “Brand New Rock’n’Roll Party”), but whimsy was never meant to sound this determined or muscular.
There’s nothing remotely serious about Little Tigers, an absurd and amazing album recorded — literally — in Klaus’ bathroom. (The veracious liner notes do acknowledge that one flute solo was actually committed to tape in his kitchen.) Sounding like they’ve been soaking in a bathtub full of gin, Klaus and Lotsi accompany their interwoven voices on a madcap mixture of acoustic guitar, toy piano, bells, harmonica, music box, bongos, kalimba and such handy percussion implements as “toilet-flush,” “rhythmical rootbrush” and “dry-shaver.” More David Peel than Spike Jones, the pair’s fanciful program of originals (plus a rendition of Queen’s “You and I”) about aliens (“Nanoo Nanoo,” “Space Cadett”), animals (“I Buy Me a Dog”) and amour (“I Love Your Smile in the Sun,” “All That Love in My Heart,” “Kissing Under the Tree”) is unerringly adorable and, under the circumstances, more accomplished than it has any right to be.