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Ride the Wave

Alles klar, Herr Kommissar?

A Primer to New Wave // Neue Deutsche Welle

New Wave is a very subjective and broad genre, encompassing more than a decade and dozens of subgenres and parallel movements. It had its origins in late 1970s punk bands like The Clash and The Police (both of whom successfully transitioned into New Wave) and the anti-authority idea of doing whatever the heck you want as an artist. Because it encompasses so much music, it’s hard to give you a solid idea of the style, but most New Wave features a heavy focus on synthesizers and keyboards,drum machines or more sitic drum beats from a traditional kit, and way less guitar than its punky parents. The singers (who were predominantly white males) went for a softer, more romantic sound and more poetic lyrics, as opposed to the harsh anarchist yelling people associate with punk. However, early New Wave was mostly about style. Siouxsie Sioux had her over-the-top mall goth look, Debbie Harry had her two-tone hair, Adam Ant had his 18th Adam Ant had his 18th century British Navy uniform, every artist had a trademark look. And oh, what looks they were.


January’s only Random Subgenre of the Week was Neue Deutsche Welle (pronounced NOI-uh DOICH-uh VELL-uh), or New German Wave. It was one of the earliest subgenres of New Wave, and could probably be classified as a parallel movement. The term was coined in a 1979 music magazine article titled Neue Deutsche Welle – Aus grauer Städte Mauern (New German Wave – From Grey Cities’ Walls). The music came from west of the wall and was unapologetically German. The songs were almost exclusively in German, playing with the rhythm and cadence of the language and exaggerating the sharp sounds, while rejecting English names and words. Neue Deutsche Welle fell apart quickly in the same manner as most underground music movements: the mainstream music industry caught on and churned it through the pop machine until it was unrecognizable compared to its roots. If you wanna check out some more accessible NDW, I recommend Falco or Nina Hagen to start. When you’re ready for the weird stuff, try Die Krupps, DAF, and Ideal. Square one, though? The original German version of Der Kommissar, recorded in 1981 by Austrian rapper/singer Falco.


Written by Kalen Stockston. Tune into Ride the Wave every Monday from 6-7pm on 90.7fm KJHK.