Camera‘s propulsive Prosthuman is a krautrock explosion, bound to get the feet moving to the dance floors or whatever counts as a dance floor these days (bedroom floor, garage). This marks the beginning of the band’s second decade, including a lineup shift, with one new member filling the place of two.
There have been other changes over the years, many revolving around varieties of timbre. Does one follow the keyboard, the guitar or the drums? Does one tilt toward the rocking tracks or the more pensive pieces? My Top 5 Camera tracks to date: “Meteor,” “Roehre,” “Affenfaust,” “Gizmo” and “Super 8,” all tailor-made for driving or dancing. The new set includes more stompers, but branches in unexpected directions.
Camera has a penchant for opening with gusto, and the template holds true on Prosthuman, the powerful “Kartoffelstampf” leading the way. Translated as “Potato Puree,” this fuzzy rocker is a showcase for the guitar and drums, the bass reminiscent of Bauhaus and Sisters of Mercy. At 3:08, it’s the perfect length for the lead single, folding into “Alar,” which marries a ska sensibility to a sense of humor. We’re already sold; this new Camera may be even better than the old Camera.
And then, meet Tim Schroeder, who decorates the title track with sweet 80s synth. Is that a vibraphone in the background, or does it just sound like one? Either way, we’ve taken a curve in the road so gentle we didn’t even notice; instead we continue to roll. The outstanding sentence in the press release: “There is no apparent beginning to the record, no obvious ending – rather more a sense of being right in the middle.” So of course, why not add birds? Then completely drown them out with a 180 b.p.m. romper stomper, chased by handclaps and a voiceover?
Unlike many of the prior releases, the album takes half its length to slow down, and even then it’s not slow. The end of “Freundschaft” (“Friendship”) is marked by a hyperactive drum segment, as if Michael Drummer’s coffee has just kicked in. Yes, this band has a drummer named Drummer; he’s also been the band’s only constant over its career. His vision has kept the band grounded through lineup changes and timbre shifts, as he’s continued to marry musical nostalgia to forward thought. Don’t be afraid of that cover art; the akephaloi are said to be strange, but primarily peaceful, and may have been the inspiration for Humpty Dumpty. Instead, think of the image as a reflection of the music: something oddly familiar, yet ultimately beyond our ken. (Richard Allen)