I adore Falco’s debut album Einzelhaft. Some of my favorite songs of his are here: “Der Kommisar,” of course, but also “Ganz Wien,” “Maschine Brent,” “Auf der Flucht,” and “Zuviel Hitze.” All classics in my mind.
A lot of my affection for Einzelhaft lies in my general affection for the era it came from. The early ‘80s era of New Wave lands right on the sweet spot of my music tastes. There are certain sounds and tropes that wrap around me like a warm blanket, and I can find a lot of them here. It’s an easy album for me to revisit time and time again.
“Zuviel Hitze” leads things off. It’s an atmospheric song that sounds like the theme to an ’80s noir film. The electronic drumline has a bit too much hi-hat in it, but I love the strong bassline and the thin, bright synth strings. It’s a great opener.
Not much on this album, or indeed the rest of Falco’s discography, can stand up to “Der Kommisar.” Here Falco introduces his hip hop-influenced vocals, his signature style that packs a lot of lyrics into the verses and seamlessly weaves in English phrases. (Note the nod to Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” which he will reference again on “The Sound of Musik.”)
So let’s talk about Falco. For years, I only knew of him as the guy who sang “Rock Me Amadeus” and “Jeanny,” two songs in regular rotation on MTV when I was a teen. Later I found out that After the Fire’s “Der Kommisar” was a far inferior cover of an awesome Falco song (albeit with a painfully low budget video).
Maybe that’s all you know of him too. But perhaps your significant other is not like mine and doesn’t own a cassette copy of Meisterstücke, a greatest hits compilation purchased on a family visit to Innsbruck. We still have the tape, but I’ve pretty much worn it out. But I made an iTunes playlist to recreate it.
I wouldn’t necessarily say I am obsessed with Falco, but in the years since his untimely death in 1998, I’ve become fascinated by his body of work. It’s this melange of musical influences, from early hip hop to early electronica, from Motown to disco, from folk to funk, all filtered through ‘80s-era European synthpop. It’s all over the place, yet it’s still mostly cohesive.
As much of a music fan as I am, I’ve never really dived deep into why I like certain songs more than others before now. On the Eurovision Lemurs blog this year I really tried to get into the structure of the songs and figuring out what works and what doesn’t work.
Now I am going to do the same thing for Falco’s songs. I’ve got all his albums and a lot of time at home.
One of the challenges I have is that I don’t speak enough German to fully understand his lyrics. Given his Austrian dialect and his fluid transitions in and out of English and other languages in his songs, I definitely can’t trust Google Translate to help me grok the nuances. So I’m really judging the songs based on other qualities than the depth and breadth of their lyrics. Fortunately, there is still a lot left for me to unpack.
To help me along, I’m reading Falco and Beyond, a book by Ewa Mazierska. She is a professor in film studies at the University of Central Lancashire, so she takes a scholarly approach to Falco’s career. She looks at his ability to create subversive art within the confines of the heavily commercial music industry. She also breaks down some of the lyrical and structural aspects of his songs, which should give me some insight into his creative process. It may not help me fully appreciate Nachtflug, but at least I’ll understand how it came together.
This probably sounds like a goofy project to embark on, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. One of the goals I had this year was to find the time to do more things that I think will be fun. Given the current situation, now seems like the perfect time to go for it. Hopefully, I can make it fun for anyone who isn’t a diehard Falco fan, too.