Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

La Düsseldorf - Viva

La Düsseldorf

Released 1978 on Teldec
Reviewed by KosmischeSynth, 05/02/2010ce

Well, where do I begin. I've had this album for several years now and I still can't get over how good it is. It IS my favourite album, whatever it is I'm listening to at the time, whether it be something as far out as our good friend Julian or as (for want of a better word) soul-less as Steve Reich, I know I can always tune in to "Viva" and be blown away.

I first bought this record after becoming bored with the three main NEU! releases. I like NEU! alot, but for me they don't deliver as well as some other Krautrock projects. Don't get me wrong, I love all their stuff, but I sometimes feel that Michael Rother's sappy guitar parts get a bit to prevailant and much prefer the Klaus Dinger dominated tracks. So I decided to buy a La D. album. I ummed and errred for ages; the releases back then were dead expensive and I didn't want to make a choice I'd regret. Eventually I settled on Viva simply because it'd sold the best out of the three (topping 1 million copies if wikipedia is to be believed).

I have to say, I was not impressed. On first listen I found all the track cheesy to an almost ABBA degree and really believed I'd wasted my money. Viva remained at the back of my collection for about 6 months, gathering dust, until one lucky twist. I was browsing the net and came across a webite made by Astral Pedestrian. AP is a none too famous ambient/indie artist who's two albums were released on a tiny record label for next to nothing. His music is pleasant, if a bit on the 'advert music' side. Anyway, back to the point, Astral Pedestrian highly rates Dinger's music to the point of obsession. He had written long reviews of his two favourite Dinger albums; Neondian (long out of print 80s solo album) and Cha Cha 2000 Live in Tokyo (a 90s live performance of the seminal track from Viva that accidentally lasted for a whole two discs). AP had also provided samples of one track from each album. I listened to both and instantly knew I must order both CDs. I bought Cha Cha live for an extortionate price, but even so.

Whilst waiting for my new Dinger CDs to ship to me I started listening to Viva again. Wow. How could I have owned such a monumental album without realising?

We open with the title track, a song with perhaps the best into I ever heard. The noise of a German radio football commentator getting excited as Dinger's beloved Fortuna Dusseldorf score a goal. Just as the crowd cheers the murky guitars of La D. chug in. It's not a synchronised opening, not even vaguely, which makes it special. You see Dinger (and his two co-members, Thomas Dinger, his brother, and Hans Lampe, a studio engineer from the NEU! years) never tried to be serious. The whole album contains an unmistakeable vibe of three young men having lots of fun. No drudgery in this recording process; they'd kicked out producer Conny Plank after the previous album, a liberating move.

Viva is as much of a chantable, scarf-waving anthem as you could ever have wanted. As Dinger sings the vocals (all about peace and love and beauty, this is a highly idiolistic album, occasionally verging on cheesy, but thats the fun bit!) the choir of Thomas Dingers behind him mimic the football crowd. The instumentation is unique; the three primary instruments (bar drums, this is Dinger music after all) are synth, guitar and organ, yet you wouldn't be able to distinguish between them. They for a kind of swirling stew of beautiful and very European harmonies. Yet its not all soft, it has a punky (well, not punky but... post-punky, no.... new wavey?... no, just Dinger) edge to it and is as much a rush of energy as any pop song can be.

Viva crashes out after two minutes, leaving only the undelying organ swirl standing. Just as you think its all over a new song speeds towards you at an autobahn-worthy speed: White Overalls. It's a very catchy song, lyrically its almost comic (New style in the city / Oh yeah / White overalls/ White overalls/ White angels fly/ White overdoses/ White overdoses) but it's even more a joyous motorik outpouring than it's predecessor. A sing along and a half. A short reprise to Viva at the end and we finally fade away after waht seems much too nutritious to have been only four minutes.

Then its time for Rheinita. Rheinita got #3 in Germany at the time, but the group couldn't play it live and so did a bit of a one hit wonder. A sampled church choir laden with context-obscuring echo lead us in before suddenly cutting out to a Hans Lampe drum part of beautiful simplicity. The trademark organ/guitar/synth lineup build up, playing a raptuous melody of thirds, pure bliss. Over the seven minutes there are no vocals (all the more of an accheivement to have got it to number three, one German radio station even had it at number one for 6 months) but a piano is added and we traverse a great range of improvised melodies, all staggeringly beautiful. We fade out to birdsong (those who remember 'Hero' from NEU! '75 will be familliar) and into Geld.

Geld is as punky as La D. ever got. Not very, but even no. A riff (again in thirds) of synth glittering introduces us before the guitars churn into action. This is angry. A protest song against monetary culture, something we can all agree with, if a bit hippyish in places (make love, make love, make love not war). Then in the middle it collapses (looooovvee is all you need, says an old Beatles song). We build back up to the original motorik splendour and the track cuts after about seven minutes.

Now, at the end of side one. Wow. What an album.

Then next track, and all of side two on the original, is an epic. Cha Cha 2000. Dinger made a total of seven version of this song throughout his career. The song is Dinger, Dinger is the song. The same combo of organ/synth/guitar, preceeded by a few Star Wars-esque synth laser beams lead us in.

Cha Cha 2000
Cha Cha 2000
Cha Cha 2000
Cha Cha 2000
Dance to the future with me
Cha Cha 2000
Laser blue eyes
Can see paradise
Where the rivers are blue
And the wars are all gone
And the air is clean
And the grass is green
So get out of your car
And stand on your feet

It sounds unlikely, but this is a winning formula. We rave on in an ever faster spiral (reminds me of a mimed version of Rheinita from 1979 in which the Dinger brothers quite literally spin themselves round and round until they are dizzy and fall over) until with a scream we fall (down down down) to a piano impro part. From here we build gradually back to the original track, and before you know it, the song is over. Just trust me, it's brilliant.

The artwork also says alot. The back of the lyrics sheet was a collage of photos of the band. They are all grinning madly and in all kind of wierd poses, all just glad to be alive. This unbounded joy is what makes Viva great. Never has such an aura surrounded an album as this. Who else would intersperce such a serious song as 'Geld' with bits of 50s doo-wap and random shreiking? No, no-one else.

Viva started me on a long line, and I am proud to say I have joined the select club of Dinger obsessives. I have all his albums (bar the impossible 'Die (b)Engel Des Herrn', and each one is such a cut above anything else. Nothing compares to Dinger. No matter what anyone says about his work, even the 'it looks dodgy to me' late 90s la! NEU? albums and the two unofficial NEU! albums are gold. I can not stress enough how good Dinger's music is. It's hairraising and funny and hypnotic and... oh he was just amazing.

To conclude, RIP to Klaus. We may soon have two more Dinger albums, depending on whether Miki Yui and co. decide to rerelease what he was working on when he died. For all are sakes, I hope she does.

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