For me, like many non-German speakers, being a fan of Rammstein is the ultimate triumph of style over substance. I have only a very basic understanding of the German language, and that is confined to those words that sound like their English counterparts. Every time a Rammstein CD enters my possession I have to either ask someone what the title means or look it up online at the same time as I’m looking up the translations to the lyrics of the songs. The obvious exception to this was Mutter, but that’s one of those words that sounds similar to its English translation.
When I’m listening to Rammstein my focus is primarily on the melodic composition of each track and the sentiment and emotional load delivered through the vocals. Not understanding the lyrics without a translator adds an air of mystery to the listening and allows me to apply whatever meaning I like to the music, though there have been occasions where finding out what a song was really about has been a shock and what I like to refer to as “The Rammstein Effect” – the realisation that, in your ignorance, you’ve applied the completely opposite meaning to piece of music then was intended (This is similar to the “Golden Brown” and “Every Breath You Take” effects, though those problems relate to people not listening to the lyrics in the first place as opposed to not speaking the language the song is written in).
Liebe ist für alle da, the latest studio album from those Germanic industrial rockers, manages to shock not only when a translation is found but before the disc has even been taken out of its cover. The standard version of the album arrives in a magnificent fold out package featuring images of the band as they enact the preparation of a banquet, with two naked women set to be the main course. The special edition, apparently, features a complete set of sex toys, one for each member of the band along with various other items that might come in handy during a night of debauchery.
The album title translates as Love is there for Everyone and, coupled with the imagery on the cover and paraphernalia that’s sold with the different versions of the album, points to the main themes addressed by the music, notably Love and Lust, though trying to extract meaning from a Rammstein album is always a dangerous exercise. As with all previous Rammstein releases several websites have stepped up to provide English translations for the songs, but these are fraught with translator error and the problems of trying to convey the nuance of song lyrics and the associated poetry and imagery that work in German but don’t translate well. This adds to the difficulty of determining meaning from the words when you read them in English and it’s likely that the writer’s intentions that are easily derived for the German speaker are lost on everyone else to some degree.
Love and Lust are addressed in varying forms, none of them too conventional. Frühling in Paris seems to deal with an encounter with a French prostitute and some of the lyrics are in French (lead singer Till Lindemann’s linguistic abilities shining through once again); Wiener Blut addresses the horror and perverse lust of the Fritzl case in Austria where a girl was held captive by her father in the basement of their home; Roter Sand is about a jealous lover killing the singer; and while there’s some debate on-line, Ich tu dir weh is (superficially, at least) about an S&M style relationship.
The first single from the album, Pussy, is a fine example of Rammstein understanding how some German’s can be perceived by the rest of the world with a performance that’s reminiscent of the German character in Super Troopers who gets caught driving his Porsche far too fast with his gorgeous wife while a thumping euro-dance track blasts from the stereo. The lyric “so what’s the problem?” could be any exchange student getting caught in a pub doing something lewd. The single allows the bands sense of humor to shine and it’s telling that the song features directly after the very dark and sinister Wiener Blut, after which something is needed to lighten the mood.
The themes of the album are such that it would be possible for the music to take a dark turn too easily, especially as Rammstein don’t seem afraid to allow the notion of lust to lead to perversion. The cover artwork for the album plays on the notion of the German cannibal, there are songs that detail imprisonment, domination, and revenge killings, so if it wasn’t for a light touch of humor here and there Liebe ist für alle da could be a real downer.
At first I wasn’t sure about this album, it seemed bland and easy to criticise with none of the tracks memorable, nothing that you would hum to yourself. I thought this right up to the point where I caught myself humming one of the songs as I absent-mindedly roamed around the house one evening. That was the turning point for me and this album. I listened again and gave each track the attention they deserve.
Pussy, is the fulcrum on which the album pivots, tracks build up to it and then slide back down on the far side. The strange thing is that Pussy (the song, not the, y’know, other thing), while memorable and pop-ish is probably the weakest track on the album, let down by its general sentiment and lyrical content. The nature of Pussy is probably why the rest of the album is easy to dismiss, once you hear this track it gets lodged in your head and drowns out the rest of the material, so after one or two casual listens you think that Pussy is the be all and end all of the album, that it’s representative of the whole thing which couldn’t be further from the truth.
The songs either side of Pussy are more mature, and strangely for a Rammstein release, subtle in their workings, particularly Mehr and Roter Sand that both start off with a low, lonely, almost melancholy feel and slowly build up higher and higher, not loud and brash, but in a victorious, celebratory fashion, like there’s something there to be proud of and worth singing about, though once you do lay your hands on a translation you’ll discover this not to be the case at all and a fine example of that Rammstein effect.
My initial dismissal of Liebe ist für alle da was also due in part to a gripe that I still have concerning the intros used for each song, which layer effects and gimmicks to seemingly distinguish each track radically from its neighbors. I can only guess that this trick will come in handy when the band go on tour and fans will be better able to distinguish each track and thus cheer on que. This is a minor gripe and shouldn’t put anyone off the album, especially as once Liebe ist für alle da grows on you the different intro styles won’t matter at all.
The relative inaccessability of Liebe ist für alle da will probably limit its longevity and despite my having gone back and given the album more consideration I still can’t see myself spinning this disc too often in the future as I’d be far more likely to turn to Mutter, Rosenrot, or even Reise, Reise when in the mood for some Rammstein.
One Thumb Up and One Thumb Down for Rammstein’s Liebe ist für alle da
Rammstein – Liebe ist für alle da
1. “Rammlied” (Ramm-Song) 5:20
2. “Ich tu dir weh” (I Hurt You) 5:02
3. “Waidmanns Heil” (Hunter’s Salute/Hail) 3:33
4. “Haifisch” (Shark) 3:45
5. “B********” (Bückstabü) 4:15
6. “Frühling in Paris” (Springtime in Paris) 4:45
7. “Wiener Blut” (Viennese Blood) 3:53
8. “Pussy” 4:00
9. “Liebe ist für alle da” (Love is there for Everyone) 3:26
10. “Mehr” (More) 4:09
11. “Roter Sand” (Red Sand) 3:59