Many moons ago, when I lived in Germany, I became very fond of their large numbers of Depeche Mode soundalike bands, one of which was a duo called Wolfsheim. Is it fair to start a review describing them in that way? Probably not, but to a non-Teutonic audience, I think the comparison is inevitable. But their album Casting Shadows is quite brilliant, as are the singles it yielded, Kein Zurück, Find You’re Here and Blind 2004, only one of which is actually on the album.
But of course, as soon as I decided I liked it, they inevitably decided to split up, going through an intriguingly acrimonious breakup involving a very messy lawsuit and a lot of extremely bad blood. You probably never even knew or cared, but the truth is they had matured into a very good band, and the split was really rather frustrating.
So it was pleasing that in 2008 singer and not-founder-member Peter Heppner decided to release a solo album, which for reasons best known to himself he decided to call Solo. He’d been messing around recording with other artists such as Schiller and Paul van Dyk for a couple of years, and had obviously decided that he could go it alone.
The album opens with a great track called Easy, but for me German artists are always best when they sing in their own language, the first of which is second track Alleinesein (‘being alone’), a powerful beat-driven track which was quite rightly the first single from the album.
Vorbei (‘over’) is the first of the truly exceptional tracks on the album. It’s driven primarily by a pad riff, but all the way through the production throws you slightly trippy surprises, and if you understand it, the lyric is nearly as powerful as Kein Zurück. I Hate You is a brilliantly moody piece (“… from the bottom of my heart,” Heppner continues). No Matter What it Takes is another strong track, which maybe wouldn’t have felt out of place at the top end of the charts at the tail end of the 1980s.
Towards the end of the album, you get the bizarrely titled Walter (London or Manchester), another anthem in the form of Wherever, and the exceptionally powerful album closer Das Geht Vorbei… All in all, you do have to wonder slightly to what degree Solo was inspired by the problems that Wolfsheim had been having post-Casting Shadows, but lyrically and musically the album is a powerful return to Heppner’s traditional form.
As a postscript, I was very pleased to discover while researching this piece that he’s just released another album called My Heart of Stone. More on that another time.