17 Hippies: 20 Years – Anatomy

It Takes a Village

Listening Post 92. The Berlin-based world/folk group 17 Hippies emerged in an open-minded Europe that valued diversity. Operating less like a band than a village in which each resident carries instruments and tastes acquired on foreign adventures, the collective’s disparate elements work beautifully together, against expectations. The result is a floating musical center of gravity as inspiring as it is fun, with dominant elements (Balkan rhythm, French chanson, Weimar cabaret) and recessive strands (klezmer, Gypsy swing or whatever style a piece calls for). They sing in German, French and English, fronted by Kiki Sauer (lyricist, vocals, accordion), Christopher Blenkinsop (composer, vocals, bouzouki) and Dirk Trageser (lyricist, vocals, guitar). Anatomy, their greatest hits collection, offers a kaleidoscopic look at their bandwidth, spinning danceable tales of boisterous men and pretty women carousing, drinking or whispering in bars and cafés. Adieu portrays an intimate parting: “The others have gone ahead and are waiting for me, but your scent lingers in the air,” Sauer sings in German, “I’ll take something with me that no one else can” (video 1). There’s nothing but energy in Uz (Don’t Mess With Me), a patter song in South Hessian dialect: “I’ll punch you if you don’t cut the crap… now move your fat ass,” Trageser asserts, propelled by a rushing Cajun-Turkish rhythmic mix (video 2). Marlène is a sensuous pickup story with French verses and German refrain: “You turn the heads of those seeking desire, you dance tango, java and waltz until you’re out of your mind!” (video 3). Though the band never takes itself too seriously, Anatomy’s 20 tracks prompt an earnest thought: With the EU’s liberal foundation cracking beneath their feet, maybe more Europeans—not to mention Americans—could reorient themselves by the light and sound of 17 Hippies. (Hipster Records)

 

 

 

 


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