Germany’s Tarwater became a critical part of Berlin-based Kitty-Yo Records over a decade ago, reaching a peak with 2000’s ‘Animals Suns & Atoms’ and its hypnotic mix of rock-solid rhythms, metronomic beats and Bernd Jestram’s aloof vocals. It’s been a while since we last heard a proper album from them and since then Matthew Dear has taken up the mantle and delivered some high quality hook-heavy albums in between. So it appears Tarwater have come back to claim their Teutonic pop crown and – initially at least – it seems they have never been away.
For fans of the band, ‘Photographed’ will be like hearing from a long-lost friend. There’s that familiar mix of aloof vocals, unusual beats and hooklines which could only come from a German act (or, in fairness, the aforementioned Dear). It’s catchy but in a cool way. However, it proves to be a false dawn. The title track is certainly intriguing: leisurely-paced and featuring brass interludes, it is closer in spirit to the warmth of fellow countrymen The Notwist. Thereafter, sadly, the highlights are few in number.
‘Radio War’ may be as teutonically precise as the band can be but the hookline, the crafty melody that keeps everything together isn’t as strong as previous albums. Jazzy instrumentals (‘In A Day’, ‘Furkan’) also don’t really convince, so it’s left to a homage to Kraftwerk (‘Get On’) to briefly stir the creative fires but even that proves to be a false dawn.
The overall sound is unmistakably Tarwater but they do seem like a shadow of their former selves. Experimenting with your formula is admirable but the best advice for Tarwater is surely for them to get back to writing infectious songs again.
The Notwist, Matthew Dear