The Grexits - For Sale

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We listen to the new album For Sale, which is again a co-production of the Munich labels Echokammer and Gutfeeling, and end up with political aspects first. Not only because we adhere to the old-fashioned theory that every music tells of its social conditions, but also because The Grexits were founded a few years ago at a benefit event for Greek refugee initiatives under the headline Highway to Hellas, when singer-songwriter Nikos Papadopoulos performed there with his other band Ta Mourmourakia. What has changed over time? In contrast to the neverending subject Brexit, the Grexit discussion has evaporated. The situation of the fugitives, who land on the island of Lesbos and hope for a better future at this bottleneck to Central Europe, has become worse again these days. And it has to be said that the 300 billion that the Germans still owe the Greeks as compensation for war crimes would help in this and other disasters. Incidentally, the new right-wing government, which has replaced the more than disappointing left-wing government, also insists on these reparations. If the new Greek Minister of Economics Adonis Georgiadis wanted to promote For Sale when he announced in the Süddeutsche Zeitung on 28.9.2019: "We sell everything!” With the proper amount of dough, you can now buy a few roads or the Athens airport. Europa today: The right wing and the turbo capitalists continue to shoot their way forward. If you can't or won't play along, you could go to the next intersection to sell your soul to the devil, as the blues legends say. But The Grexits don't make blues - and yet there's a lot of blues in it, and of course the soul of the old Greek blues alias Rembetiko, which came into being over a hundred years ago, the soundtrack of the little crooks and have-nots, the druggists and addicts that's especially popular in the port cities. "The only parallel to Rembetiko music I can think of is the urban blues of New Orleans, Chicago and Harlem. There's the same feeling of being outside society, the same secret language," and the main topics are "amazingly similar: hashish, prison, police and sex," writes music ethnologist Gail Holst. You don't have to recognize these tracks on For Sale to feel the cold wind blowing through the major European cities - a mood that Andreas "G.Rag" Staebler from Gutfeeling Records captured in two videos on the first album (see Youtube). And The Grexits don't do the Neo-Folk thing. Although they also demonstrate on their second album that they could, and although they would probably have it easier on the Folkpop tour. A post-rock band with a Greek singer and a tendency to unexpected detours is not, we would say, the most direct way to success in Germany, despite a certain interest in rousing Balkan folklore – and now let’s take a dive into the Greek pub where Davidopoulos already worked before his time as a record dealer, but where photos of anarchists and communists hang, which is rather rare. "It's difficult to find a suitable Rembetiko piece, because it shouldn't be arbitrary," says Nikos Papadopoulos. "You could just take something and rebuild it, but it'll be clichéd." That's why he's not looking for a recipe for adaptations, but always for a personal approach, for him and the whole band. And thus it has no special meaning that the new album gets by with just one Rembetiko classic, in favor of other preferences and influences. It just came out the way the Grexiteers Albert Pöschl, Josip Pavlov and Simon Dieu mixed in more this time.  The impression that it could be a Neo-Rembetiko band should not even be suggested, and the harsh ruptures between a tender and a surf instrumental, between a Jiorgos Katsaros classic and punk rock and even Krautrock associations are not smoothed but clearly displayed. In this respect, one can take it as a statement when they cover "This Is Rock And Roll", relatively close to the original of a punk band that is completely unknown at least here in Kollosseumstraße (who, according to our yellow note about Belgium, also had a song "Do You Love The Nazis" on their 1978 debut album) However, the Rembetiko tradition seems to have a great influence on the lyrics of Papadopoulos. Put simply, the old Rembetiko songs are mainly lamentations, be they social, amorous or everyday lamentations. "No fun", as Iggy Pop has already said. Accordingly, Papadopoulos doesn't write nice poetry. Just a few examples: "You've wrapped me up again with a shred of cloth full of blood ... But now I'm going to wrap you up with it because it won't go on like this," it says in "The Continuation". "I'm going away from your life, then you can't hurt me anymore. Why do you come now and moan to me? I don't care about you anymore", says a woman in "The End". Or a verse from "The Forbidden": "Your look slits my chest open, Rosalie, you made me see the world with different eyes, but I call out your name and you turn your back on me.” If we now remember that old blues songs were often to be understood as code - if, for example, a woman had left and was insulted, so actually a nasty landlord was insulted, but whom one could not openly insult - then one could also come up with the idea that in Papadopoulos´ dysfunctional lovesongs perhaps something more is at stake. Maybe about the roadblocks on the Highway to Hell via Hellas, maybe about worldly conditions you can't cope with ... Questions you don't ask a singer, but yourself. And maybe it's not just surprising to us how the 1965 Kinks song "Tired Of Waiting For You" in the Grexits version, which comes along casually, is also turned into a lament and musically shifted to another planet, so to speak. A parallel to the first album, by the way, on which they interpreted "A Hard Day´s Night" brutally, like a workers' battle song; "the best cover version of the Beatles classic since Peter Sellers", wrote the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Of course it's on the piece of paper we stuck on our map of England: For Sale Beatles 64 / Lennon often greeted the Germans in the Star Club with Hitler salute / Brexit = perhaps also old scores to be settled??? Another parallel to the first album:  There, they play "M´ Enan Kafetzi Blegmeni" by Jiorgos Katsaros, and this time his Rembetiko classic "HTES TO VRADY STOU KARIPI / Yesterday evening at Karipis". The song belongs to the early Rembetika called Murmurika, which comes from murmuriso/murmeln (and is in the name of Papadopoulos´ band Ta Mourmourakia). Here, Katsaros tells of a notorious "Tekes" in Piraeus, of the temple in Karipis, where the so-called hash mass was celebrated, and of an evening when the dice were played with zinc plated dice and the crooks got away with it. Behind the Echokammer-Gutfeeling connection and the Grexits Albert "Echokammer" Pöschl, Josip Pavlov and Simon Dieu an arsenal of bands and works is building up: Das weiße Pferd, 4Shades, Ippio Payo, Zwinkelmann, Suzie Trio, H, Queen of Japan, Blacken the Black, to name but a few; and the guests Wolfgang Schlick, Matthias Götz, Rochus Boulanger and Tom Wu bring the Express Brass Band, Die Hochzeitskapelle, The Hidden Cameras, Kamerakino, Alien Ensemble, Le Millipede and many more into play  - yes, we find that this is not quite normal and a good and necessary sign in Europe today. Which leaves the mysterious yellow note that says ”Sun Ra?” - what the hell? Track 12 "KATI NA SOU PO / I wanted to say something to you", influenced by the guests, made us somehow think of Sun Ra, and that his spaceship, which was connected with the idea of getting people out into a better galaxy, floats over Greece at the moment. Adding the point the that Sun Ra once flew off in the band of Rhythm´n´Blues-Rock´n´Roll singer Wynonie Harris, we now are coming full circle with "This Is Rock And Roll". Well, that’s it with For Sale: Check it out!   Christos Davidopoulos is DJ, managing director of Optimal Records and his label Plattendruck and has compiled the album "Rembetika - Songs of the Greek Underground" for Trikont. Franz Dobler is DJ, author and sometimes guest on Das Hobos, with whom he recorded one side of the "Remembering Nico" single on Gutfeeling.