LUXEMBOURG: Klasseklon - Serge Tonnar & Legotrip
A multi-genred extravaganza that celebrates the language and culture of the Grand Duchy
It is fair to say that Luxembourg is a country that punches well above its weight for one of its size economically. Over the years many companies’ CEOs have found themselves with their eyes bulging with imagined riches when considering the prospect of setting up their headquarters in the landlocked microstate. In that sense many obvious comparisons can be drawn between Luxembourg and fellow European tax haven Liechtenstein, a country where we recently reviewed a record. Without wanting to be disparaging to our billions of Liechteinsteiner readers, who might already have taken offence from our less than glistening review of Al Walser’s sophomore album, after doing a deep dive into the music scenes of both nations it is fair to say that the economy is where the comparisons should end.
“...defiance to not let the native language die demonstrates a pride and a sense of importance in preserving what is arguably the last bastion of Luxembourger culture that separates them from neighbouring regions.”
Luxembourg, of course, has a rich history (pardon the pun), but this does not just extend to the geopolitical power that the fortress enabled them centuries ago, in recent decades it has established itself as arguably the ultimate hub of pan-Europeanism. Whilst to us internationalists who live in hope of a one day borderless society in which the world begins to adopt a shift to continentalist pride that celebrates our wonderful differences rather than nationalist isolationism, Luxembourg might seem to be a utopia of our vision, with all its citizens being multilingual and strong ties to an array of nations with diverse demographics highlighted by the fact that more than 16% of its population hail from Portugal, including the parents of previously reviewed electro artist Victor Ferreira AKA Sun Glitters. Yet, our bleeding heart globalist view of the world somewhat shatters when one considers how Luxembourg is an example of a nation that were it not for artists like Serge Tonnar & Legotrip could easily lose their entire culture.
Yet, one might listen to the album Klasseklon and pose the question ‘how could such a varied album in musical style be representative of Luxembourger culture?’. The answer is simple – Luxembourgish. Despite an almost implicit pan-European doctrine enforced by the country’s political role as the seat of the Court of Justice of the European Union, making it one of the European Union’s four capital cities, as well as the huge influence of its two largest neighbours Germany and France, some of its population’s defiance to not let the native language die demonstrates a pride and a sense of importance in preserving what is arguably the last bastion of Luxembourger culture that separates them from neighbouring regions. The sense of national pride is taken one step further by the content of some of the songs.
My favourite track on the album Crémant An Der Chamber has a hint of Dick Dale style surf-rock and even a bit of what sounds like Spanish guitar. Yet, the song is in support of the then Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Laurent Mosar’s comment that the deputies would save money by only drinking Luxembourgish Crémant instead of French champagne. Whilst this has a double meaning as Tonnar & Co. clearly are demonstrating a sarcastic lack of sympathy for the politicians of the world’s richest country per capita having to take cuts whilst others are suffering far worse injustices abroad, there is a clear pride behind what Luxembourg produces. One of the most endearing songs of this entire process is a homage to their capital Laksembörg Sitti. The hip-hop track (yes, you read that correctly) at its chorus breaks out of Luxembourgish into English in which Tonnar belts out ‘‘Luxembourg City very pretty, very dude’ in his thick accent. What makes this even more glorious is the fact that on the lyrics section of Tonnar’s website it has the lyrics down as ‘laksembörg-sitti, wärri pritti, wärri dout’ which is merely transliteration of the English he sings.
Whilst I cannot pretend that this is my favourite album of all time, the variety is admirable and I never found myself bored of the whistle-stop tour of every genre under the sun. There is an array of subgenres of rock to be heard at the start from the hard-rock intro of Am Zigarettendamp to the chanson-rock Ech Hu Loscht Dech Ze Flécken which has almost a slight klezmer feel to it. In fact Disnäland tricks the listener into thinking it is a blues-rock track but ends up using reggae style-synths which make the band sound somewhat like The Specials’ Ghost Town. The song demonstrates Tonnar’s tongue-in-cheek sensibility as he sings in a rather impassioned manner but negates any serious emotion with the the inherently amusing lyric ‘Disnäland’ each time it is sung. From another corner of the world Mir Wëlle Bleiwe Wat Mer Sinn is effectively a tango song, whilst in another move steering aggressively towards a case of musical whiplash is Bopebistro a beautiful folk ballad that uses what sounds like a harp. For all the fun there is to be had on this album there is a lot of beauty too. Blumme Vun Der Tankstell is a genuinely moving song, whilst the more spacey Coldplay-esque tracks, Den Accident Ass Geraumt and the most popular Belsch Plaasch, are also somewhat emotive. Overall the group reveal great versatility and the fact they do so in the language of their forefathers is something to behold.