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City - Unter der Haut CD (album) cover

UNTER DER HAUT

City

 

Prog Related

3.00 | 3 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Where have all the flowers gone?

Having found fame and fortune virtually overnight in their native East Germany in the late 1970's, City have gone on released a string of albums over the subsequent years. It is generally agreed though that despite sterling efforts, they have never managed to rediscover the magic which resulted in their best known song "Am fenster". This 1983 release (in English "Under the skin") marks a fundamental shift in style for the band, brought about by a significant line up change. Bassist/violinist Georgi Gogow, whose violin playing was central to the phenomenal success of "Am fenster", left the band. He was replaced by keyboard player Manfred Hennig who immediately became the focus of City's sound.

As a result of these changes, City suddenly took on a Krautrock-lite identity, the opening title track sounding more than a little like a Kraftwerk outtake. The repetitive keyboard motifs and emotionless vocals also have all the hallmarks of 80's electronic music. While lead guitar is still very much in evidence, its impact is far more muted as the familiar synth sounds dominate track after track. The harsh Germanic vocals on "Zuckersüß" are reminiscent of bands such as Devo, the coldness of the singing being emphasised by the strong electronic bass lines and floating synths.

"Unser Schuldirektor" ("Our headmaster") opens with some welcome acoustic guitar which in turn introduces a softer synth style. The song has a noticeable warmth compared to its peers, the vocals being much more intimate. The pop rock sound returns though for "Sisyphus" and "Nur Rock´n Roll", a couple of fairly nondescript affairs. In a surprise turn, we suddenly come across a German language cover of the American folk standard "Where have all the flowers gone" written by Pete Seeger and Joe Hickerson. This superb guitar driven version transforms the track into a rock ballad, and justifies the price of admission for this album single handed. The adaptation is reminiscent of Frigid Pink's take on "House of the rising sun".

"Kontra" takes us back to the ubiquitous electro-pop and 80's synths, while "Was mich trägt" assumes a slightly heavier style with the first real guitar solo and some fine lead synth. The closing "Glastraum" appears to be the longest track on the album at just over 6 minutes, although the final minute or so is silent. The song is similar to "Unser Schuldirektor", featuring a more pleasing, almost passionate style with atmospheric keyboards and an emotional vocal performance by Toni Krahl.

In all, a much different album to the band's early works. Here they are attempting to achieve commercial success by adopting the sounds of the period without actually distinguishing themselves from the many other bands ploughing the same furrow. There are some good moments here, but overall the album is too pop focused and too anonymous to stand out from its peers.

The version I have includes 2 additional tracks. The first of these, "Sonnabendmittag" ("Midday, Saturday") sounds at first like it might be an interesting improvisation, but a prosaic piece of synth pop once again burst forward snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The distorted Rundgren like guitar solo is worth catching though. "Schalt die Glotze aus" is no less ordinary.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |

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