Soap Box: Things that bugged me in June 2016

Yeah, the Soap Box is back! I gotta say, I kind of missed it, I recently stumbled over a few blackface-fails in German entertainment and was reminded of my old text on it and thought: hey, I am pretty angry at stuff now, why not do this again?

Oh, and don’t worry. I am still happy with a cat and a dude – all the more reasons to vent on this blog instead of at home (well, technically, I am venting at home when I write this but…pish posh, you know?).

So let’s start.

  1. Blackface in Germany – a never ending story

I can’t believe that it’s 2016 and there’s still idiotic people in Germany that do blackface. Admitted, it’s the kind of people who seem like they totally would do stupid stuff like that but it’s still weird that there’s no one around them who told them that it’s hella racist and hella dumb to do. We had a bad comedian who thought that it would be fun to do blackface to portray famous German football player Jerome Boateng in a „fun“ way (by now, it should be clear, that „fun“ means racist for way too many German entertainers). In a way he added insult to injury as Boateng had already had his fair share of open racism (the kind that is not even “fun”) when one of those empty-headed nazis from the right-wing party Afd, Alexander Gauland, said that he wouldn’t want him as a neighbour. Dude, Boateng makes more money with one game than you in a year and probably has his own island. You couldn’t be his neighbour if you wanted to.

Oh, but this isn’t even all of it. Only this week, one of our charming D-celebrities, Micaela Schäfer, made a nude-fashion-shot (I mean, is it a fashion shot without the clothes?) all in blackface. Like, she didn’t even just do blackface, she did blackeverything. Which was just as bad as it sounds, especially if I tell you right now that she did this with “tribal” jewelry and a freaking spear in her hand. If Ben Stiller’s blackface in “Tropic Thunder” pales in comparison than you’re really, no REALLY, doing it wrong.

  1. No means no – but not really, am I right?

In case you haven’t heard, Germany is currently discussing how to save its men and women from being raped. Despite the myth that we are all super liberal and progressive around here, our law still doesn’t accept a „no“ as an adequate warning against rapists. If you haven’t punched that motherfucker till he bled his own teeth, you have no chance in front of the law. That sucks, right? Well, the law is in the midst of being changed. But guess what…people are super worried that women will now flood the system with false rape accusations. It scares people so much that a pretty prominent female journalist wrote a whole article about it in one of the biggest newspapers out there (Die Zeit) – even in the print version which means that it’s legit!

It’s like, how can we make sure that we women will not suddenly willy nilly accuse everyone just to get dragged through the system, be treated like dirty whores, cursed at and be filmed by strangers during the court hearing (and they will not be fined) and even be witness as the perpetrators will be let off, so they can file a lawsuit against us for suggesting that they were rapists in the first place. I mean, model Gina-Lisa Lohfink went through this only recently and I guess it sounds so much fun that we all are really hellbent on experiencing the same.

  1. Orange is the new Black gut-punched me so bad

Possible spoilers ahead.

It’s just…man.

  1. Kill your idols

There’s a lot of people, mainly women, who I really respect and like a lot, whose work I love and who I push as much as is possible with a measly blog and about 160 followers on Twitter. However, I don’t have idols or icons or whatever. Even back when I studied philosophy, I didn’t get people who were totally behind one philosopher without one shred of disagreement. I mean, I didn’t read that much during that time but each and every philosopher I read at some point said or wrote something that I strongly disagreed with.

So, this week I had to strongly disagree with a feminist writer who I actually respect a lot and whose German column I love. But her recent text simply felt lazy, unstructured and riddled with logical fallacies (don’t say you won’t partake in a discussion and then partake in the discussion by saying that you don’t partake in the discussion – unless it’s Monty Python kind of absurd, that stuff is lame). I felt bad because I don’t have a single fan who is not a close friend or related to me, I don’t have many followers or readers and therefore I am one of those weird, annoying people from the sidelines, who suddenly clear their throat and interrupt the idol to tell them that their fly is wide open. No one likes those people and I was those people right then and there because even if I myself am guilty of it, I don’t like lazy texts. I still like Margarete Stockowski, though. I really do.

  1. I really think that football/soccer is boring

I hate it because I can’t even play video games because we only have one monitor at home and the only game on our laptop is a lame strategy game and those are boooooring. Fuck that. I am Moss from the “IT Crowd” at a football match and I am just as excited about it. I am even just as aggressive and angry at it because there’s one hour of football talk then 45 minutes of football, then there’s the news WITH FOOTBALL IN IT and then there’s another 45 minutes and then another hour with football talk. IT NEVER ENDS!

I just realized how much I love this scene.

That’s it for now. A girl has other things to do (yes, I watch GOT and I somehow had to slip that in here to let you know that I have, in fact, not lived in a cave in the last two years.

The Kills and Savages: one has punch, the other a brand

For some reason I felt like comparing the albums by these two bands today and I acknowledge that their music is not 1:1 the same but the use of heavy bass lines, strong female vocals and an air of danger that is at its best sensual, made me link them together quite easily.

Let’s start with The Kills whose 5th studio album „Ash & Ice“ has been just released and…well. I gotta admit, I never was the biggest The Kills-fan to begin with. I think they write amazing singles but their albums never fully excite me. Their new record is most successful when it puts Alison Mosshart’s vocals front and center with a steady bassline and it falls absolutely flat, whenever Jamie Hince takes the mic. It’s not even Hince’s fault, he has a nice enough voice but Alison is such a force that it’s just a bad comparison. Who would go to a Michelle Williams show if Beyoncè played next door?

„Ash & Ice“ starts incredibly strong with „Doing it to Death“. It’s one hell of a sensual and sinister song, a mood that suits the duo. But after the third and fourth variation of a song like this, it becomes hard to stay interested. The Kills are not the biggest melody-makers and it wouldn’t be too bad with their kind of music if it would simply pack more punch. It doesn’t, though. 

As it is, the songs start to meander and smoother, more melancholic tracks like „Days of Why and How“ simply drown instead of being a standout. It might be unfair to assume but I feel like they can’t get out of their brand and comfort zone and seem to be caught in an endless repetition of their „sound“.

It’s a damn shame, to be honest. If you look at a band like The White Stripes – who had their brand down to a ‚T‘ – it’s not impossible. They kept their sound tight as hell but still managed to vary every single song on every single album.

And only to give a more recent example – albeit with a few more band members – Savages just released their sophomore and kind of managed just that with „Adore Life“. Now, the Savages’ sound is more frantic, more dangerous. Where The Kills are charming but sinister, Savages are full-on terrifying, their smile already betraying their intentions. Whereas „Ash & Ice“ starts smooth, cool and catchy, „The Answer“ dives deep into confusion and nearly psychedelic hectic and Jenny Beth’s vocals tell a whole story (oh, and that voice is equally haunting live).

Savages have the punch. The tension is there for the whole length of their album and songs like „Evil“ might give you, dear reader, an idea of why I thought it would be a good idea to compare these two bands. The heartbeat is there, the movement that The Kills have when they’re good is omnipresent on „Adore Life“ and can put you in a trance if you let it. Now, Savages are more ambitious, „Evil“ could have just as well be a lost and forgotten Danzig-song when it comes to the vocal line.  

I would be mad if I wouldn’t mention the words „Post Punk“ and „80s“. Maybe it is the punk that doesn’t even try to be subtle on this album, maybe it’s the fact that Savages have released two, The Kills have already released five albums but personally, one band has released an album that is exciting, fun and dangerous and the other has added a few new (and fewer great) songs to their discography but nothing more.

Kiran Leonard ‚Pink Lemonade‘ – Looks like there’s a new Connor Oberst in town

Look, I get it. Nothings sucks more than being compared to a gigantic hero of indie music and smiling through your teeth when people approach you about it. But here’s the thing: if people like your music, then this comparison doesn’t mean that you sound like that other person but rather evoke the same excitement.

This goes for Kiran Leonard who is 20, hella prolific as an artist (look at his bandcamp, it nearly looks like Guided by Voice’s discography) and has just released this artfully, wonderful, aggressive, tender, stylish and outright brilliant album „Grapefruit“. Yes, it sounds as sweet, fresh and bitter at the same time as the fruit tastes.

Kiran uses dirty garage rock, singer songwriter sentiments and even implements a whole orchestra (because orchestras always make everything better). His whole album has the faint smell of angsty 90s alt-indie and that is a delight. As much as I hate the comeback of plateau-shoes and unflattering proportions in clothing, I love the 90s that have really the current music scene.

Now, given the Connor Oberst-reference, there’s also one hell of a genre mix, so if you like your lovely songwriter-calm but also enjoy the occasional fit of rage, you’re in the right place.

Favourite Song: Dani Siciliano ‚Why’ is an amazing build up

You know, sometimes I feel like I am not enough of a music enthusiast to win 20 Bucks at „Who wants to be a millionaire – the music edition“. I know nothing, Jon Snow, when it comes to all the connections and histories and especially the supposedly groundbreaking artists that have paved the way. Instead, I listen to Dani Siciliano and am floored how good her third (really?) album is, how fresh it sounds and how much it sounds like a debut because it is so crisp but still playful and then I look at Wikipedia and boy, gee, you know, I should have known that she already worked with Matthew Herbert for, like, the last 200 years?

But then I think this: there is a pro and con to everything. Sure, to follow artists through their highs and lows and live shows is immensely thankful. Seeing how the Decemberists can’t create something that has such a grip on me such as „The Hazards of Love“ but still put out albums that I totally obsess over every single time, is magical.

But it’s equally magical to listen to that one Against Me! album without any prior (musical) knowledge of the band and therefore being able to see this album as the big, bold and beautiful statement it is, without any prior punk-history lesson or some angry punkrocker-dude telling me how much better they were 10 years ago.

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Dani Siciliano – Why von LineSession

So, here I am. Listening to Dani Siciliano’s „Why“, a song that has a great build up whose only mission it is to build up (Dani recites number-combinations like there’s a countdown or we’re at least in that “Lost”-bunker, sweating away) and to play with expectations. Oh, and that piano, what a hint of musical openers, the excitement, the drama, the humor. Dani produced this album on her own. Apparently, Herbert did this with her previous albums. I don’t know how they sound but I know that her job is exemplary with this album, whether it’s for the swoony 90s slow-dance-songs that hint at Sade at times, at other’s at Suzanne Vega or the bold songs that sound as if My Brightest Diamond teamed up with Imogen Heap. Oh, and no song let’s you guess what comes next. You think, you’re bad at guessing who will win the Super Bowl/World Cup? Try guessing where each song on Sicilano’s album is going. It’s a delight to be out of the loop through her use of loops.

Lucius ‚Good Grief‘: Good Grief, it took me long to write this

I gotta admit it, the first time I listened to the sophomore album by Lucius, who I lauded as one of my favourite newcomers a few years ago with an album that I loved to bits, I was a little disappointed. Where „Wildewoman“ had hit singles smacked in the front, middle and end of the record, „Good Grief“ (for me) needed some listens to show its true beauty which is the use of the Lucius-vocal harmony-brilliance in combination with a deeper connection of the songs with the lyrics.

One of the early standouts („Gone Insane“) sounds as manic as the lyrics and the video are but quite a few other songs are not as bold and sound more mature. This is absolutely the right step for this band but of course they set the standard impossibly high with „Wildewoman“ which was so incredibly diverse in style and musical genres that the more structured „Good Grief“ pales in comparison (at first).

However, I am fully converted and can’t even believe how I could not find all the joy in the tender „My heart got caught on your sleeve“, the wonderfully classic „Madness“ and the first ingenious single „Born again Teen“. Yes, it grows on you and then it opens up the same incredible pop-genius that Lucius already have shown on „Wildewoman“. Especially the emotions with which they operate (which is hard to do with harmonies anyways but which seems nearly impossible with a song like „Gone Insane“ that is absolutely stunning and shattering in its intensity) is one of the strongest assets of Lucius and I can assure you, it blossoms fully on stage.

So, here it is, late to the game but nevertheless all in and in full mascott-dressage (I chose a squirrel with fake eyelashes, lipstick and a black & white mod-dress): my full approval of this album.

By the way, the video to „Gone Insane“ is absolutely amazeballs! For someone who grew up with a lot of the 80s movies that discovered claymation as a way to freak out young kids, I am all in with this concept. Besides, this was pretty hard work for the girls to who had to pose for an eternity to get this done. I call it the „Sledgehammer“ of the 21st century and I will stick to that description.

Esperanza Spalding ‚Emily’s D+Evolution‘: One hell of a fusion-queen

I am not that much into jazz. I like the great grand jazz ladies but modern jazz and free jazz is something that I can’t really get into. My boyfriend is into jazz. When we met and I told him that I was some sort of a music journalist he – like all, mainly male, people – listed all musicians I should know. To further prove his point he played me endless songs by female jazz musicians. Mostly white, mostly with voices as thin as silk and the excitement of a good, weekly three-hour meeting at work. I thought, ‚Yeah, I really don’t like Jazz, that must be it.‘

Now, I am in the middle of listening to Grammy-winning jazz singer Esperanza Spalding on her new album and it’s divine. DIVINE! And I am thinking that maybe I just don’t like the weirdly detached, flat and quite static jazz interpretation of mostly white women with thin voices. „Emily’s D+Evolution“ is fun because it uses all elements that jazz could offer and plays with them. Whether it’s the waterfall of a vocal line or the maddest bassline slowly growing through the song while an electric guitar makes every Frank Zappa-fan cry tears of joy, the whole album sounds fresh, exciting and adventurous. This is not someone who learned jazz and then decided to only play it as it was taught. This is someone who learned jazz, loved a lot of different other genres as well and combined them with gusto. And the gusto comes through Spalding’s simply incredible adeptness at pretty much every single instrument.

We got the piano, violin, bass guitar and the proper classic Bass (and probably some other instruments she just learned for fun). Aside from that, Esparanza sings like any of the greats. I mean, this is a multi-facetted musician who loves to experiment and has a great sense of melody, dramaturgy and humor in her music. She is basically the Peter Gabriel of jazz (only that she plays a lot more instrument than Peter does, ha!).

That video is a mess, though.

Oh Germany: why Erdogan wants a German comedian in jail

You might have read about it, right now, Jan Böhmermann, a German comedian might face trial over a satirical poem he recited about Erdogan. “Je suis Böhmermann”, some people already tweet (because that’s the term du jour for the littlest, most pathetic thing) and the German media are nauseatingly full of opinion pieces and the question, how far satire can and should go.

But here’s a little backstory. It all began not with Böhmermann but with the satirical comedy show “Extra3” who did a “comedic” song about Erdogan criticizing him for his treatment of critical members of the press and generally the political opposition in Turkey. Because, see, right now, Turkey is a key component to deal with the thousands and hundreds of thousands of refugees. To reduce the risk of those refugees going the dangerous route over the sea to Greece, they now will be sent back immediately to Turkey who will house them but also will send as many refugees over the legal (and more importantly, safe) way to Europe as have been sent back from Greece. It’s not a perfect plan but Europe doesn’t know anymore how to stop all those people from dying in little make-shift boats and Greece doesn’t know what to do with the survivors. It all could be a lot better but this is what we have right now.

The European countries had to compromise heavily to get this deal done with Turkey because Erdogan wants in on the EU. Furthermore, Turkey has been heavily criticized for incarcerating critical journalists and members of the political opposition. Especially the Kurds suffer heavily under the turkish government which is a constant sore in the eye of the Human Rights Watch (read more).

So, it’s a tricky situation. On the one hand, you need to get on Erdogan’s good side, so you can save the lives of refugees and gain more control over the situation. On the other hand, you can’t completely ignore that Turkey seems to be on the best way to become a dictatorship.

Extra3 wanted to show this discrepancy with their song which made fun of how much control Erdogan has on the whole situation right now. Erdogan returned the favour by inviting the German ambassador and being kind of thin-skinned about the whole thing.

Now, Extra3 did not break any German law. Our free speech covers satire and art – if you will – within the means. German politicians complained about Erdogan’s reaction and even the ambassador kind of laughed it off as ridiculous.

Enter Jan ****ing Böhmermann. You might not have heard of him before but he’s kind of like John Oliver…but without the empathy, the passion to educate on ambiguous topics and generally the goodwill to make things better. Jan Böhmermann is basically a dude who puts out ironic viral videos or pranks other stars or the media in an attempt to show that he is above everything and smarter than everyone and anyways, the coolest dude who ever lived. He also is bathed in irony which means that you can never attack anything he does because in the end you didn’t get it because you’re too stupid. He’s the kind of comedian who doesn’t want to change things but kind of loves to criticize them and feel better about himself. The kind who walks into an internet forum, mocks everyone and then leaves before he has to explain himself. He’s the kind of comedian who releases a parody of a rap video that miraculously mocks both gangster rappers and the police and therefore manages to have no opinion at all but just riled up everyone. He’s – for lack of a better word – a troll.

And he decided to one-up Extra3 with a poem about Erdogan that is – by law – illegal to say about any head of state according to §103 (that really should be done with but still exists). He knew that because he mentioned it before he recited it. He also had Turkish subtitles for the poem but not the contextual introduction of the poem, meaning that the “satire” did not translate to people who didn’t speak German.

It’s a poem that is full of clichés and stereotypes about muslim people and refers to Erdogan as some really bad things. It’s supposed to be educating about what should be reprimanded instead of the Extra3-song. At least, that’s what people interpret into this whole thing. It’s not like Böhmermann really clarified it, even after Merkel apologized to Erdogan about the poem, even after Erdogan said he wanted file a complaint and even after Böhmermann is – right now – under police protection because apparently some people don’t get a joke (seriously, though, the last part is the one thing I am actually really sorry for because no one deserves to be threatened for a stupid poem). So far, there has been no word from Böhmermann about this situation.

The legal situation is this (despite a lot of people claiming otherwise):

– Merkel can’t wave her hand to make it all go away

– The poem is actually illegal under §103

– The court can decide whether the context of the poem is enough to punish Böhmermann or not (most people think that it will not)

The situation is also this:

In an already very tricky and sensitive political situation, someone decides to completely derail everything by creating a pretty big clusterfuck for everyone involved. Do you think that Angela Merkel has better things to do than to apologize to Erdogan for fear that he will somehow use this against the deal the EU has with him? Of course, she does. Do you think the media should rather report on the hundreds of other critical situations in this world than spend about 500 articles each day on a stupid satire? Of course, they should. Do you think that Erdogan overreacted? Of course he did but we are not talking about cool-beans Obama here, so it is impossible to not have known that.

You want to know what I think? I think that freedom of speech is incredibly important. But this thing did not help the incarcerated journalists in Turkey and it did not educate people on the limits of freedom of speech because right now, everyone tweets “Satire can do anything” like they don’t even know what words are or that personal rights do exist. And I think that you are always allowed to criticize your politicians, your leaders or whomever you want to criticize – but you don’t have to be such an ass about it.