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Legends: The 39 Clocks

Lending a tune or two from the Velvet Underground, pinching elements of the Kraut-generation, forging tracks from Suicide´s demo tapes, and spinning it all together with healthy lashings of German “Denglisch” spoken-word and melodies sung in opium dazes, we give you: The 39 Clocks.

I was introduced to the band about 5 years ago, while randomly trawling through numerous music blogs, I was drawn to a cover with 2 suave dudes dressed in back, with cigarettes, leaning against a wall. I downloaded the album (sue me) and began on a journey that has turned me into a bit of a missionary in terms of promoting the band. The first record I heard was “Pain it Dark”, a loose, jilted, scrawny, heroin, raspy take on the better elements of a lot of their peers. Sung almost out of time, songs collapsing halfway through only to pick up again, long atmospheric pieces, shout outs from Julian Cope, all threaded together to make my ears prick up.

Long train journeys have been assuaged by the magic of their songs. Bus journeys to Singapore have had the sting taken out of them as “Rainy Night Insanities” bled through my earphones and melded with the reflections in the windows. The 39 Clocks are the sort of band everyone should know, and you take it for granted that this isn’t the case.

The duo of J.G 39 and C.H. 39 from Hannover, locally famed for their violent live shows (routinely stopped for throwing chairs around or causing minor riots) its a miracle these noise mongers were never noticed outside their town limits. Despite a “Best of” released on the cult label, De Stijl, they broke up over 15 years ago lacking any sort of real exposure. Even the triumphant side-project The Phantom Payne lacked any promotion and remains largely unheard, the 1000 limited vinyls sitting on dusty shelves gathering a new coat.

The self-proclaimed “Psycho-beat” progenitors, first played in 1976 at an Arts House (of which they were subsequently thrown-out), were booted out of a club in Kassel, and apparently played a show leaving their guitars behind and using a vacuum cleaner and a saw. Their first attempts at recording were foiled by losing the tapes, but they would finally make their mark on the world a couple years later.

Recording on 4 tracks, with 60’s garage and psychedelia as their main imprint, the first 7″ (DNS/Twisted and Shouts) was cut in 1980 and released on “No Fun Records”. 1981 saw the arrival of their first full length, “Pain It Dark”, also on No Fun, which got them a few local shows, most of which ended with people throwing chairs, tables and even knives at them. Their short-lived tours (one of which they opened for the legendary This Heat) through Germany mostly ended up in violent removals from the stage, or the crowd turning on them and launching various missiles in their direction. At one point they even played wearing bandages over their heads to prove the point.

Years stretched into years, and without any real fan-base or positive reaction to the music the band slowly slipped into obscurity. The Phantom Payne aka Juergen Gleue continued releasing hypnotizing records up until the 90’s when his final album Phantom Payn Days hit shelves with limited impact. The album itself is highly worth tracking down.

Jason Pierce definitely listened to these guys. You should too.


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