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coverpic flag Germany - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 15 - 01/12/98

Freunde Der Italienischen Oper
Edle Einfalt Stille Grösse
What's So Funny About

Freunde Der Italienischen Oper (Friends Of The Italian Opera) were an East German avantgarde rock collective, founded in the final years of the GDR. They became famous in the then very lively East German underground scene. After the German unification in 1990 they signed a contract with a West German independent company and released an album in 1991. But the contract soon turned out to be a very bad deal for the band. I don't know any details, but the only option for the band to escape their slavery was to break up in 1992. The album finally disappeared from the shelves and our Friends Of The Italian Opera fell into oblivion.

Five years later it seems that things have been sorted out. Probably the contract was limited to five years, but I'm only speculating. Anyway, the first album (called Um Thron und Liebe) finally got re-released on CD through another company. But even more exciting, a new album by Freunde Der Italienischen Oper was released. However, the band hasn't reformed. The album consists of older unreleased material, recorded between 1989 and 1992. The albums Um Thron und Liebe and Edle Einfalt Stille Grösse can be purchased either separately or in a nice little box set.

If you think the group's name is indicative of their sound, you're most probably wrong. The band mixes many different styles and you can certainly find some elements you could attribute to 'Italian Opera' - like the theatrical singing style and some classical sounds here and there - but there is so much more. Basically it's rock music with heavy use of unusual instruments like trombone, accordion, harp, harmonium, bassoon, lute, or mandolin. The lyrics are multilingual, in English, German and French. So better be prepared for diversity.

The first album (Um Thron und Liebe) is interesting and good, but since it's not really new I will focus on the new release in my review. Edle Einfalt Stille Grösse is a release of remaining material from various sources and as such the production is not up to the standards of a regular CD release, but still better than your usual demo tape. Some tracks sound very good, others have background hiss from the cassette tape on which they were recorded.

The album starts with an intro spoken over a classical tune (sounds like Italian opera). Memory has a driving beat, strings and brass instrumentation. A guitar is there, but mostly mixed in the background. Second Train is more a conventional rock song, whereas Big Clamy Thing and Your Teddy add more synthesized sounds and the trombone. In dem Land is a 'typical' German marching tune. Look At The Watch offers some surprising breaks. You Love Me Sweet sounds like an old cabaret song. I Roped Your Weapons has a poppy piano melody and Spanish guitar towards the end. In 1989 they tell the story of the wild west style changes in East Germany over a western tune. Peoples Shoot The Mirror has a rather dull demo-like sound, but the noisy industrial-like intro, the hypnotic mechanical rhythms, the fuzz guitar and the trombone make it a good listen anyway. Kleine Madonna is a German lament without any drums. Wonderland is one of the more epic tracks with a nice background choir. When The Scythe Flies has a little bit of honky-tonk piano. Little Monster sounds somewhat frightening, but finally the album ends with a friendly harmonium and orchestra song Mother Why? (a comment on the end of the band?).

After all, a diverse album where anybody can find something, if your tastes are as broad as mine you won't regret the purchase. BTW, the box set is better value for the money.

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