March 5, 2008

The Notwist - A Refresher Course

Many music sites are running a press story about the long awaited return of Notwist this week. It has been six years since their last record and then I realized DANG! Six years? Where the hell does time go? And then I began to wonder how many of the average readers of these music blogs are old enough to recall The Notwist and their delicious music. The last proper Notwist release (a non remix record) came out in 2002 so that means a present day cool kid of barely legal drinking age would have been 14 ish when Neon Golden hit the stores. A lot of time has elapsed since those training bras and braces days so I think a Notwist refresher course is must.

Artist: The Notwist
Hometown: Germany
Key Back Catalog:
1990: S/T
1992 : Nook - (Community Records)
1995 : 12 (Zero Hour)
1998: Shrink (Zero Hour)
2002: Neon Golden (Domino Records)
2008: The Devil, You + Me is due out on Domino Records later this year.

RIYL : There have been many stages for this band musically so depending on the year they could have sounded like Slayer (metal), Swervedriver (shoegaze), Sunny Day (heavy but beautiful), Drive Like Jehu (angsty guitar goodness), glitchy indie-tronica, jazz, and everything in between. No matter what style we are talking about here they have always had an overwhelming essence of something deeply sad.

My introduction to the band came from an ex-boyfriend who was working at Sub Pop in the early 90s. He was digging through the demo box at work and stumbled across the Notwist CD Nook. The label wasn't interested in the band but he became obsessed with them; playing them for anyone who would listen. It was perhaps one of the first bands I had ever heard cross two very different genres, taking something like chugging blazing metal and covering it up with tender dark vocal melodies and wait, is that a banjo I hear? In 2002 that sounded incredibly new and never done before. Even the CD booklet was unusual -it had a different piece of art per page to accompany the lyrics. This was not your typical metal record nor was it overtly emo or sappy. At the time I couldn't begin to guess what the hell The Notwist were all about (pre-internet days) but I fell in love with their sound and have followed them loyally ever since.

I will interject here with an urban legend AKA something I can't swear to be true. It has been said that the band Sunny Day Real Estate (some of whom were renting a house with my ex at the time) was so moved by The Notwist cd booklet that they were inspired to have unique art to coincide with every song on their album too. I also have to thank Thurston Moore here because a mutual friend tipped me off that Thurston was selling some of his records at the time which included nearly all of the early Notwist rare LPs and 12"ers. My Notwist collection is complete thanks to Thurston's purging. Yay!

As I grew up and out of grunge and into more varied forms of music like electronica, I would have never guessed Notwist, who could thrash with the best of them, would end up traveling down a glitchy and a much more delicate musical path. Once again ahead of their time they dared to mix indie rock and electronic music when few people were doing it, no less gracefully or successfully. The leader aspect of a band isn't nearly as important as the quality of the music they produce but Notwist are leaders of the best kind. Their art is always impeccable, well thought out, and carries the emotional weight of marble. If six years is what it took the group to make a new record then I have high expectations that it will be well worth the wait. Or weight if you will.

I can't say enough good things about The Notwist and if I had to name one band I am consistently inspired by as a musician (like CRAP WHY COULDN'T I HAVE WRITTEN THAT SONG!!!!), Notwist is and will probably always be my band of choice.

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