The German band Tears relies on punk nostalgia. Your new album “Hair of a Dog” is the emotional counter beer that is sometimes needed.
Gwen Dolyn and Steffen Israel are the “tears” from Chemnitz Photo: Selena Hamers
Trends come, trends go. And then they come again: hipsters, colorful track jackets, perms. Nostalgia doesn’t just exist in aerobics videos; the “Neue Neue Deutsche Welle” (NNDW), a sound characterized by 80s beats, synthesizers and minimalist lyrics, is also celebrating a revival in the German-speaking music landscape.
The debut album “Haare of a Dog” by the Chemnitz duo Tears may feel like a journey through time for some people. Tears, on the one hand that is singer Gwen Dolyn. The Darmstadt native has been making music with the “Toyboys” since 2020, somewhere between grunge, punk and NNDW. On her EP “Come On,” which was released in 2022, she sings in German and English. On the other hand, Steffen Israel, guitarist of the Chemnitz indie band Kraftklub, which is itself known for its noughties nostalgia.
At the beginning there was her idea to cover a German punk classic. Now there are eleven tracks in which the duo combines their various influences – and leaves behind a catchy tune. The music on “Hair of a Dog” sounds loud and energetic, like the cover of the punk song “Duel of the Last” by Chaos Z from Stuttgart.
Although it’s not nearly as hard, raw and harsh as the original from 1985, you can still hear the love for punk in the song. Although Tears has slowed down the tempo, the song sounds jagged and pounding, but at the same time melodic and dreamy.
Complicated relationships, longing and self-sacrifice
Other songs are quieter, Gwen Dolyn’s voice is little more than chanting (“Surrender”). But Tears’ music sounds most rousing when the two present the sound of the noughties in a new guise: with playful melodies, catchy choruses and intimate lines of lyrics. This is also the case in the song “Stures stupid heart”, whose lyrics are about the conflict between head and mind, about emotional chaos.
A conversation with your own heart is about complicated relationships, longing, self-sacrifice. “I don’t want much per se / But all I want / Is you and the happiness in the world / Or does that cost too much?” What provides material for a melancholic ballad instead comes with a feel-good beat and pop in Tears -Refrain, which is reminiscent of We Are Heroes. Heartbreak that you want to dance to unleashed in the strobe flash.
The story is further developed in the text of “In the Middle of the Face”. The lyrical self is fleeing an unhappy relationship. Gwen Dolyn sings about how she no longer stays silent, how she no longer lets everything happen to her. All that remains is anger and disappointment. Gwen Dolyn powerfully hits her counterpart right in the face with her voice. “Let the pain out/I’ll throw it up on the asphalt in front of you.”
Tears: “Hair of a Dog” (Eklat Tonträger/Warner Brothers)
Gwen Dolyn’s engaging lyrics give the songs a feminist perspective. These clearly convey freedom from a failed relationship and how an ego becomes happy with itself. The fear of getting older (“Born Too Old”) is also a theme, as is the feeling of walking home alone as a woman at night (“Learning to Shoot”) and banishing demons (“Old Wounds”).
“Hair of a Dog” is not about lint rollers and animal hair allergies – but there are still dog howls. The album title alludes to the English phrase “hair of the dog”. In the Middle Ages, it was believed that bite wounds from a rabid dog could be healed by placing its hair on the infected wound. Fight like with like. Today the expression means trying to alleviate the symptoms of excessive alcohol consumption with more alcohol the next day.
Tears’ lyrics are about pain and overcoming your own fears. “Hair of a Dog” is the emotional foil that is sometimes needed.