Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Klaus Dinger
Neondian


Released 1985 on Teldec
Reviewed by Serotonin, 09/01/2004ce


"Neondian" was originally planned as the fourth La Dusseldorf album, but released under Dinger's name due to contractual hassles. Featuring four new Dinger songs and reworkings of two older La Dusseldorf numbers, the album was released in 1985, its striking cover showing Dinger not only sporting a large black mohawk, but also a feather stuck on to his shaved head with an elastoplast. He is holding a camera. A ring-pull from a Coke can is sellotaped to the front of the photograph. All very subtle clues to this album's explosive content.
"Neondian" is a term that Dinger coined to describe how he felt at the time: it's a contraction of "Neon Indian". "Neon": urban, cosmopolitan. This is still the Pop Artist who first set out his love affair with Dusseldorf on La Dusseldorf's debut album. "Indian": used within the context of North American Indian/Native American, this is the newly mohawked and feathered Dinger identifying himself with those people; observing the spread of the white American corporate and militaristic empire with sadness and anger.

Parallels can also easily be drawn between Dinger's mohican image and an influence from the early 80s waves of punk, and with justification. The two most stridently subversive centrepieces of this album take the "fuck the bourgeoisie" anger of Neu '75's "Hero" to its logical conclusion with forthright, no-holds-barred commentaries on business, media, money-laundering, politics and,yes, Reagan-era American oppression and foreign policy. Hardly surprisingly, after this Dinger found himself personae non gratis in much of the Western world, not least the US; all his subsequent releases would be through the Japanese independent label Captain Trip. Anyhow, let's have a look at the songs on Neondian.

The album starts off innocuously enough with that odd Dinger staple, taped birdsong & environmental sounds. Then the first swirling chords of the majestic, glacially beautiful (you just cannot have too many metaphors in describing a song like this!)"Mon Amour" kick in. A pounding rhythm starts up (hello Mr. Liebezeit, for it is he) and we're off. Off on a nine-minute instrumental introduction to Klaus Dinger's mid-80s mindset of defiant triumph in the face of colossal adversity.

Apologies for any confusion caused, but I reckon it's definitely worth just jumping ahead a little here to quote a couple of snatches of lyric from the third and title track on the album: "Close your eyes, mi amour... will (sic) be king in the nineties/Save the world from the mighties!" The link from "mi amour" back to the title of "Mon Amour" is, I reckon, a deliberate cross-reference, as those lyrics perfectly describe the mood of "Mon Amour", the instrumental track. As noted above, this an album revolving around 'triumph in the face of adversity'; listening to "Mon Amour", you (or at least I) get the feeling of exactly that. It's such a cinematic piece that you can think of any image you like, but I get reminded of Bowie's Heroes; indomitable lovers, standing by The Wall, only this time it's in mid-80s, just-pre-unification Germany, holding out in patient optimism. Alternatively, I also think of Dinger, with his mohawk, striding around central Dusseldorf at dusk, thinking "I fucking rule." Or, moving on to the next track, "Ich bin artist, un du? Nicht!"

I'm by no means a linguist. I could barely order a cup of tea in a German cafe. But thanks to track two on Neondian, "Pipi AA", I know how to say "Shit on TV", "arsehole on the TV screen", and "little commercial bitch" in German. For these and other examples of Dinger's scathing barbs at big business and media, the full lyrics of "Pipi AA" are available at http://mitglied.lycos.de/neuschnee/. Just follow the link to "Klaus Dinger's Records". And you get all this lyrical incisiveness set to a rollocking electro-rock backing, all Dinger's work. "Ich bin artist" indeed.

The third and last track on side one of the album is, as mentioned earlier, the title track. Continuing the mood of "Mon Amour", it's a big, swirling, beautiful piece, mostly instrumental with just a few lines of lyrics that convey Dinger's belief that defying all these adversaries that he's rallying against will eventually bring victory, at least in your own personal life if not on a grand scale. Musically, the long, bending guitar notes also lift the song into the stratosphere, and to my ears definitely (but don't tell Klaus! he'll kill me!) sound influenced by the fuzzed-up, "singing" lead guitar sound patented by his one-time collaborator, Michael Rother. But this is just a fantastic track, again with loads of great synth programming. Even the cheesy lead-synth breaks (which scarily remind me of Van Halen's "Jump"!) sound rousing.

On to the second side of "Neondian" the album then, and its greatest controversy, the accusatory "America". And that is precisely the subject on Dinger's mind, as each verse of the song commences with some clever (if at first confusing) wordplay that references various victims of American foreign policy. And then there's the rest of the lyrics...bloody hell. The sheer outrage that must've been caused to US listeners by hearing Dinger throw their perceived victory in World War II back in their faces by calling the American settlers' treatment of Native Americans "a holocaust" and equating Reagan with Hitler is barely imaginable. No wonder he was boycotted. Dinger does attempt to balance his ire a little by admitting "America, I love you and I hate you", but also concluding "Marilyn and Elvis, Dylan, Doors and Velvets are the best of you." With the addition of Husker Du, Sonic Youth, Black Flag, Television and a few others, I'd go along with that. Oh, and Suicide too, whose influence is audible on parts of this track.

As mentioned at the start of this review, the remainder of "Neondian" is given over to new versions of two La Dusseldorf, "Cha Cha 2000" and "Ich Liebe Dich". This does slightly disappoint, making the listener perhaps feel that Dinger's suddenly ran out of ideas, but on the strength of the preceeding songs, you can forgive him.
Well, almost, when you hear this version of "Cha Cha 2000". It's the sole major letdown on this album, but compared to the "Viva" original, it's a big one. The comparison that always comes to my mind here is Neil Young's synth remake of "Mr Soul" for "Trans", which just fell flat too, losing all the originality and soul of the original. The additional irritant of what sounds like a kazoo towards the end of this "Cha Cha" doesn't do Dinger's greatest composition any favours either.

Fortunately, the version of La D.'s 1982 single "Ich Liebe Dich" (here re-titled "Jag Alskar Dig") sounds less irritating, and provides a solid conclusion to the album, occupying similar musical territory as "Mon Amour" and "Neondian". It starts off as a sombre, longing love song, more glacial, wintery synths, gathering pace in the middle, before slowing again to an aching conclusion, with Dinger singing "Jag Alskar Dig" to "the love of my life", Anita, (see this interview for details: http://www.gawl.de/Dingerland/Talks/pop_int.html ), who was a Swede, hence the translation of the song's title into Swedish for this album. The problem here is that I haven't yet heard the original La D.version of this song, so I can't bring in any comparisons. Hopefully, when I do eventually hear the original I won't be as disappointed as I am with the version of "Cha Cha" here.

Once you're aware of the heartbreak caused to Dinger by Anita's departure, it seems strange that such a defiant, self-righteous album should end on what is essentially a defeated-sounding song of longing for a long-gone lover. But I feel that "Jag" brings a logical emotional balance to the album, and is perfectly sequenced as a dramatic conclusion to what I now believe to be Dinger's greatest album, dud version of "Cha Cha" notwithstanding. "Neondian" is truly an Unsung masterpiece of cathartic, self-righteous artistic defiance and (largely) buoyant optimism in the face of adversity. Just seek out this album, buy it, and fight "the mighties".


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