Culture

Did Rammstein's Mega-Hit Portend a Weakened Germany?

It was one of the weightiest splashdowns in the history of heavy rock.

Twelve years and almost 24 million YouTube views later, Rammstein mega-hit “Keine Lust”—and its exceptional companion video—stands as a testament to the excess and endurance of the rock mythos. Did it also portend a weakened Germany?

The masterwork, whose keyboard phrasing stretches like painful sinew over the Sturm und Drang of mechanized metal, featured superstars gone out to pasture, and presented a triumphantly dissolute anthem of return.

At the time of its release, January 2005, President George W. Bush had just secured a second term. Ten months later, Angela Merkel, head of a grand coalition, would be appointed chancellor of Germany. September 11, 2001 had re-afflicted Western civilization with an abiding non-state enemy.

German hard rock/metal bands are known for putting big themes to music. The Scorpions’ celebration of glasnost and the end of the Cold War (“Winds of Change”) was fifteen years into history. Accept, Deutschland’s second most famous rockers, had unleashed “Balls to the Wall” in 1983, the same year President Reagan first used the term “Evil Empire.”

“Keine Lust” was thematically characterized by Rammstein members as a simple reunion of older and strikingly obese bandmates, who meet up to play together after a long hiatus absent the limelight of their musical apotheosis. For the group’s devoted fan base, that’s enough to confer the status of beloved classic. A deeper read of the symbology of song and video reveals a darkly humorous exploration of the post-Cold War zeitgeist.

Arriving in white luxury sedans of various makes, the musicians lumber out, dust off neglected instruments, and break into the angst-ridden number like they haven’t missed a practice session in twenty years. Touches of Teutonic humor ensue when the comradely hugs of once-fit rockers wrap around layers of accumulated fat, and lead singer Till Lindemann takes oxygen during the rhythm-driven break. Only keyboardist Christian “Flake” Lorenz has escaped the affliction of morbid weight gain; he is confined to a musically weaponized wheelchair.

Belying the self-satisfied demeanors of rock stars who have lived for untold years on the fat of pop cultural accomplishment is the context of jaded satiation and a subtext of the life-threatening consequences of flabby existential decadence.

In counterpoint are the musical assistants, like medical groupies, a cohort of beautiful women in the prime of their sexual lives. The band’s indifference to a bevy that one assumes would be theirs for the taking reveals just how removed these formerly vital and libertine artists are from the days of erotic excitement and conquest.

Things heat up considerably when statuesque beauties spew flame over the scene, two of them equipped with mouth-affixed flamethrowers. Our rotund heroes rock on undeterred, defying electrocution in the standing water of a long-abandoned industrial building.

In the end, Flake arises from his wheelchair, revitalized and ready to jam into the night. But the others are leaving, returning to sedentary and bourgeois lives where storied hedonism hangs on the walls of mansions like platinum albums.

Keine Lust translated means “I don’t feel like it.”  Within that simple sentiment Rammstein evokes enervation on a grand scale. The song and video fly in the face of hard rock’s foundational themes of potency, thinness, and cultural relevance. When the Wagnerian chorus kicks in with the refrain, “So cold, I’m cold,” the song moves from wry commentary on the afterlives of superstars to a bracing, tragicomic illumination of agedness and the ravages of time.

Did it also signal the beginning of the end for Germany?

One hesitates to draw facile parallels between this earthshaking performance and the advent of a bloated, decadent, and flaccid European continent. Or make connections to the insidious barbarism that has infected the host. Then again, art appreciation lives, breathes and evolves, and inherent symbolism remains in the eye of the beholder.

All hail Rammstein, for making big beautiful in this riveting work. Larger truths about implications for the future of their homeland are open to interpretation.