- Jack’s parade | MP3 Clip
- Hidden & sick | MP3 Clip
- 10 years
- Percy has returned (the story of Percy, 3rd & last part)
- Nothing but His
- At the Sunlight Sanatorium | MP3 Clip
- The real gentleman or the mad lover
- Once Eliot turned ugly in his lover’s bed | MP3 Clip
- Wondered colonel killed couple
- Collage | MP3 Clip
- Romance | MP3 Clip
Only a few copies remain / almost out-of-print
Katzenjammer Kabarett, a young French four-piece, returns with their second release – Grand-Guignol & Variétés– and a firmer pop approach mixing incredible stories and catchy melodic hooks. Be it deathrock, electro, punk or dark-cabaret, they are here to charm you, seduce you, and leave you merrily twitching to their infectious songs. About the musical style, perhaps the best is to guess it for yourself! Mary Komplikated’s sultry vocals ride atop their Dadaesque, Avant-Garde blend of sounds: the din created by Herr Katz, Klischee and Mr. Guillotine.
On this follow-up to their 2006 debut (reissued on Projekt), Katzenjammer Kabarett (this French band with a German name and English lyrics) shows their sensibility for the diletante and frivolous aesthetic of several past movements. Their compositions revel in varied and various collages, utilizing electronic, pop, deathrock, and classical-music sounds as well as traditional cabaret songs to generate the peculiar atmosphere one probably found in old fashioned Lieder (the German art songs from the Nineteenth-century). A considerable part of their work comes from second-hand elements borrowed from several preceding movements and styles, but whose signs had been systematically altered and distorted. Thus, the music composed by Klischee, supported by H.K..’s lyrics and Mr. Guillotine’s necessary pragmatism, creates an alchemy with the carefree Miss Mary K’s voice and theatrical singing which embodies all the magic, the cynism and the absurdity of the hangover cabaret.
Katzenjammer Kabarett arrives at a furiously modern sound still colored with electronics but more baroque – it can speak to and charm anyone. Grand-Guignol & Variétés nevertheless devises an embroidery of unheard and original melodies. Fresh and more mature, the album offers a new serial of songs with efficient melodies, though often with complex structure (breaks, surprising beats, dissonances), and strange lyrics tinted with cruel and absurd realism merrily sung. No longer are we mere listeners as Katzenjammer Kabarett carries us to their weird universe. However Grand-Guignol & Variétés is not a rejection of reality but rather transforms it into new dimensions by introducing non-mimetic, non-realistic artful constructions instead of faithful imitation, by the use of ironic distancing, by denying emotional identification and by portraying contrast (for example in “Hidden & Sick,” Little Henry’s tragic end in contrast to the music).
Elegant as the KK members themselves, the lyrics on Grand-Guignol & Variétés are a juxtaposition of concepts. The band explains, “The stories we tell deal with a main character who is, we think, always a kind of artist, someone with a different vision of the world, and sometimes, the will to make his surrounding look like his fantasy or the way he thinks things should be. This main character is placed in conflict with secondary ones in order to confront his point of view. From the clashing of these individualities always comes the absurdity of their behavior; be they pushed by sexual frenzy (like in “Romance”), by snobish mockery (as in “Sunlight sanatorium”), jealousy (as in “Collage”), incapacity to make a decision (as in “10 years”), unconditional and even masochisitic love (“a Real Gentleman”) or blinded by an artistic vision (“Percy has returned”). The result of their desires, fears or what-have-you is always absurd. That said, the stories have to be kept away from psychology, though we can not deny the characters all have a distorted brain, it is not what interests us. We could not write about the feelings of such or such character, his motivations, about his being different, his loneliness etc. Who cares? What interests us is to create the situations in which they can be shown as they are at their best.”
As English speakers, the question must be raised regarding the band’s intention with the title, “Grand Guignol & Variétés.” Sent to investigate, here is what there is to report:
Grand Guignol – A style of macabre, horrific melodrama, popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s, featuring women in peril, ghosts or horrific murders.
Variétés – Translates as “variety.” In France this word represents “popular” music which is liked by all population classes. Much like “variety show” in America.
And to clarify, the band adds, “The name of this album is the best description we could have found for this material. It is filled with irony, if not fumisme.”
Scratching heads, the chorus asks, “fumisme!?!”
Katzenjammer replies: “Mmhh “fumisme” is the literary movement which created the modern humour form. It’s typically French and was created at the end of the 19th century in Paris by the writers and artists.”
Google to the rescue! “An aesthetic trend that ran counter to late nineteenth-century realism and naturalism — the aestheticism and internationalism registering against the bovine hyper-masculinity and nationalism characteristic. An extreme parody.” As Georges Fragerolle wrote back then, fumisme had the goal of “cutting open the smug sky under an act of textual interpretation, a partial rendering implicated in ideology, and an exercise of power. As It was the way that culture seemed unable to account for the circulation of people or things across its conceptual borders, no matter how hybrid or porous such borders are imagined to be.”
Ah yes, now I see (?).
he band returns to the scene, to explain:
“On one side, there is the ‘Grand-Guignol,’ all incoherent, all ambiguous. The mood, the music, the atmosphere skips from one thing to an other. The album questions the listening, the songs, not only from one track to another, but also in their inner structure, linked with anxiety, expectation – what will come next? – for indeed it is topsy-turvy. The music, the lyrics and the artwork skim cruelty and buffoonery, in their transversal composition that overgo formal frameworks, however keeping close to them. Grand-Guignol & Variétés tells cruel tales, love stories or nothing at all. And it all swings between integration and subversion, abuses and praises, which brings us to the ‘Variétés:’ variety where subversion lies in the will not to take any style with seriousness and to play with all works by the means of parody or plagiarism, treating this last as a form of art.”
“In the lyrics, we try to evoke a feeling of the strangeness of existence. The tales, the stories then can be built, constructed. They build themselves thanks to formal games or laws of chance, like dada writing. We are just here to help the words fit approximately with human language, remembrances of things read or thought, while Miss Mary K. rearranges them to fit with the music. Though all this seems to create a dream-like world, there are common themes in our songs. For instance the setting is often the same. The action is usually set in relative common places, like the street, staircases, bedroom, dining rooms, and gardens. Katzenjammer Kabarett’s lyrics consist of humour, playfulness, parody, free borrowings and chance associations. We always hated sentimentality, real life stories and lyricism, and therefore the ‘lyrics’ are an attempt to liberate the song from realistic psychology, to put it on the same basis as modern art and music.”
For 2009, Grand-Guignol & Variétés shows a wider range of Katzenjammer Kabarett compositions blended into an uncanny, intoxicating mixture. Humorous, yet cruel, Katzenjammer Kabarett invites anything and anyone into their extravagant world of humour, playfulness, parody, free borrowings and chance associations.
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