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The millennium was one long bad prank / we looked at each other and knew right away: that's it." The world out there is going to the dogs. Well, not just since yesterday. And it won't be over tomorrow either. Shitty times, then. Of course, you could meet them with cynicism. Or with despair. But maybe not. Maybe we could also draw hope, precisely because it would be so much easier to lapse into doom and gloom and bitter laughter now. And maybe it's okay to need something to keep our spirits up in the midst of the apocalypse.
And that's how WIR SIND SCHÖN came to be, Jens Friebe's ninth album, which, like the previous albums, is also released on Staatsakt, punctually four years after the last one (2018's FUCK PENETRATION). It is a cheerful-melancholic, ironic-serious, nonchalant piece of music, which just has no desire for staleness and contemplation. The hymn-like, beautiful title track "Wir sind schön" (We are beautiful), which embraces kitsch with self-deprecating seriousness and is above all comforting, gets to the point: the better world out there, we can build it ourselves. Despite everything. "It's an anti-nihilist album," Friebe says. No Future is already not wrong, but not so funny anymore, if the Future really rather scorching earth in prospect. But it's not that the problematic is erased. It appears on the record in the most diverse forms: In the almost socially realistic depiction of a youth friendship destroyed by the multi-tiered education system with the beautiful title - shimmering between urban sociological treatise and fairy tale - "The Shrinking City", in the devastating protocol of failed self-care ("Das Nichtmehrkönnen") or the enigmatically gloomy fantasy "What Have We Done". But the listener never gets bogged down in these low points of mood, but is always pulled out and up into the euphoric, utopian. Or, as in the rousing protest song "Sing it to the Converted", into the militant. But what sounds at first like the sheer repetition of banal slogans, turns out in the next moment to be a reflection on the necessity of repeating banal slogans. Because, as the last few years have shown, even the seemingly self-evident must be reminded again and again. Or, as Friebe puts it, "Doesn't the priestess preach to the converted / How long would they be converted if they never heard her?"
Similarly immediately poignant and intricate at the same time is "Free": what is freedom? Neoliberal exploitation, a privilege of the better-off, as preached by certain federal finance ministers? Or naked skin in the sunlight, partying, wind in the treetops, rage unleashed? Yes, this is somehow also satire, but not only: Friebe does not leave it at simply denouncing a grievance like a tired cabaret artist. Between the shifted drums, minimalist instrumentation and velvety grooves and background vocals (as on other tracks by Elektrik Diva MALONDA and Pola Lia Schulten), the actual, truthful longing for a freedom that is not characterized by anti-social economic order and commercial exploitation also comes through.
Should we laugh or cry? Maybe just both, as on "Ende aller Feiern," a sixties-poppy, subtly queer love triangle, with probably one of the best lines ever to make it into a German-language break-up song: "Wir haben uns alles erzählt/Nur zuletzt wollt' ich nicht alles wissen/I think you noticed that/And bit me goodbye."
Standing still has never been Jens Friebe's thing, but this time it's musically a bit further from the indie rock habitus that still made up FUCK PENETRATION or NACKTE ANGST ZIEH DICH AN WIR GEHEN AUS (2014). Yes, a penchant for anthems, crooner-like and storyteller is always part of Jens Friebe, but this time Afrodiasporic musical styles play a bigger role. More soul, more grooves, a certain smoothness that suits the hope that flashes again and again between ironic distance and realistic description of the present on WIR SIND SCHÖN.
Although the real drums have been almost entirely replaced by the drum computer, Staatsakt colleague Chris Imler again has a style-defining role on this album with synths and additional percussion. On "Die Schrumpfende Stadt" (where Herman Herrmann can also be heard on bass) he programmed the beat. Mense Reents (Goldene Zitronen, Sophia Kennedy) mixed "Der Wahn" and "Ende aller Feiern". As with all albums since DAS MIT DEM AUTO IST EGAL (2007), Berend Intelmann was again responsible for the production.
WIR SIND SCHÖN is an antidote to our times, an embrace of all the ambivalences we have to endure every day and an adrenaline injection into the heart of apathy. The world is complicated, but that's okay. Because, "When our eyes get used to the dark / Look at us and you'll see: We are beautiful!"
Lyrics: Aida Baghernejad