Jetboys from Friesling, Germany, they started out six years ago as a Pink Floyd cover band. Their third CD still opens with a Syd Barrett song, which itself starts with rocket blastoffs, then drifts into deep space. The singer’s got the Central European softness and English-as-second-language everyday conversational tone of the guy in the Notwist; the keyboard pirouettes around a miniature Stonehenge or does jaunty little minimalist seesaws. Nine of the 10 cuts (at least if you separately count teensy special-effect snippets, not to mention the three parts of “Forgive Me”) average only 3:12. But the 10:17 centerpiece is tops: first a crowd chant, then a synthesizer swimming into strobe-light circles, remembering that in Germany—where both Silver Convention and Boney M. did songs about Venus—space-rock and space-disco have always been cousins.
As a matter of fact, Hamburg’s Ascii.Disko also plays guitar in a rock band called Venus Vegas, where he goes by the name Kat DD Rokk! Here, when he’s not conjugating “I am” and “we are” auf Deutsch or applying his rigid continental diction to frantic Falco-like rapping or shouting like a nervous glam-cheerleader on drugs, he’s pulling out old Wax Trax fetish whips or riding the Moskow Diskow Eurorail like Detroit guys from 1986 imitating Belgian guys from 1979. He knows how to give whispered gutturals a groove, and there’s nothing Aryan in how the blatant early-Chicago-house-music tribute “Jack Your Body to the Beat” emerges from “Einfacht” ‘s Caribbean conga counter-rhythms. The longest track is also the weepiest—”Photos,” in the great lyrical tradition of Ringo Starr, Def Leppard, and A Flock of Seagulls. And the hidden coda is a squeaky robot asking, “Is this pop muzik?”
Marco Haas, in contrast, grew up drumming in Heidelberg punk bands before becoming a Berlin DJ loosely connected to Kompakt’s Cologne microhouse milieu. At first, his CD cover’s skull and crossbones suggest one of Lenny Dee’s industrial-terrorizing Brooklyn noise-gabba sets. But as with Armand Van Helden or Kid 606, his titles (e.g., “I’m Not Deaf, I’m Ignoring You”) are more punk than most of his music. His alleged dancefloor hit is a “Rock and Roll, Part 2”-Burundi-beated autobahn anthem called “Monstertruckdriver”; the riffs and drums in “Rabaukendisko” get slightly more violent; another track has voice-distorted shtickster Miss Kittin bleating about a “highway rock ‘n’ roll disaster.” There’s also an embarrassingly didactic if agreeably well-meaning know-nothing anti-war lecture from a Glasgow Ms. Dynamite soundalike, plus lots of control-freak microglitch tones sliced and spliced in quasi-random ways. And Marco sounds like he spins with a dirty needle.