first public appearance pairing Christian Henjes and Juergen Gleue
(inspired by and with names derived from LSD-25, they would become
CH-39 and JG-39) was in 1976, at the Dada Nova (a space occupied by
Otto Mühl’s AAO commune) in midtown Hannover, Germany. Dada Nova would
be a space of enduring clash. From the subtlety of a shat upon organ to
the ejection from communal meetings by bodily force, the AAO would
display that the presence of the 39 Clocks was one of their constant
Known for pranksterism and the destruction of the clubs in which they would perform, friction in every form would continually follow the band. In 1979 they were thrown out of a show in Kassel at Dokumenta (their sounds had disturbed Joseph Beuys). They created an outrage (they wrote a tune with the title “Art Minus Idiots”) at the Filmtage Hannover with their avant-garde Super 8 movies made under the disguise of director Zachius Lipschitz. Rumour claims that at a Hannover show at the Cafe Glocksee, they played the vacuum cleaner and a circular saw instead of guitars, and there was even a knife throwing incident in Bremen.
Inspired, then, clearly, by protest in the broadest and most romantic sense (they wrote a tune with the title “Radical Student Mob In Satin Boots”) their’s was a sound attuned to classic American Punk / Nuggets. Although, this is not Bomp Rock; theirs was a thrust that purposed deconstruction and reassembly in the most modern sense. This collection was put together with the non completeist in mind (originals of some of these records are as rare as Italian underwear), intending to display the general 39 Clocks vibe, but also some of their more curious wrinkles. And as the Clocks were always interested in where they were going and not where they’d been, the chronology here is strictly reversed. Diedrich Diedrichsen wrote the first review of the band (in Spex), and we at DeStijl are very pleased to have had him scribe liner notes.
Here's a great and long
overdue look at one of the finest rock n roll bands Germany ever
spawned. Compiling tracks from their LPs and singles, Zoned showcases a
group, in reverse chronology from 1987 to 1981, that's obviously
obsessed with the monotonous chug of the Velvet Underground (and you'd
swear that John Cale is singing, with a German accent, on some of the
tracks), and uses nervous energy as an instrument, as invented by
Suicide. It's clear 39 Clocks -- Christian Henjes, Jurgen Gleue, and
the drum machine -- came from an arty/dadaist/situationist background,
as the band's live shows were often sloppy, chaotic spectacles, but in
their recorded incarnation, they were a ridiculously cool, effortlessly
rockin' (wouldn't be surprised if Henjes and Gleue had a few Nuggets
comps laying around as well) duo. Sure, the sound is f**ked with at
times, using effects and spoken word poetry, but it thankfully never
sounds like art for arts sake here. The most immediate precursor to
Spacemen 3? Perhaps. Either way, this is five-star rock n
~ Andreas Knutsen
Well, this is certainly a
strange one, in the best of ways. It
probably goes without saying that most of you have never heard of 39
Clocks. We sure hadn't. But one day a promo copy of Zoned showed up
and pretty much knocked us on our asses. Who was this strange band
that sounded like the Modern Lovers on Quaaludes with the guy from
Faust singing? It wasn't until we received the actual album that we
figured we could go about piecing together a loose history of this
obscure German duo...but the liner notes, not to mention a dearth of
information online (the gist of it all is that they seemed to stir
shit up), do little except make it abundantly clear that these weirdos
will remain a mystery. Without any external details to worry about, we
can instead focus on what matters most: the music, natch!
We're sure plenty of you remember the killer Onna 7" Holy Mountain reissued a few months ago. Well, if Onna were a couple of German dudes who set their sights on reinterpreting '60s proto-punk with an unhealthy amount of dissonant NOISE and a smart ass sense of humor, they might have sounded a bit like 39 Clocks. The band pumps out catchy songs based on simple riffs and wraps them in ungodly noise, the results sounding like they were recorded in some grimey, post-industrial slaughterhouse. Like Onna, 39 Clocks appear as a total anomaly during the 1980s, and these selected recordings, represented chronologically backwards from 1987-1980, are a delightfully confusing, slightly disturbing example of psychedelia's true legacy during a time when many bands were participating in a rather unfortunate psych revival based on superficial and idealized evaluations of the 1960s - you know, just like today. 39 Clocks, instead, were damaged, druggy, and fully willing to emphasize repetitive, droning grooves that submerge themselves deep within your sick brain. Time is kept with primitive drum machines (and occasionally real drums) and, not surprisingly, the rhythmic flow is heavily indebted to many of their Krautrock predecessors. At various other points, the band conjures everyone from Suicide to the Velvet Underground to Syd Barrett's solo work. But when the smoke clears, 39 Clocks are very much their own fucked up band.
The flow of this anthology is surprisingly fluid, the unifying thread being 39 Clocks' skewed approach to music making. On "My Tears Will Drown The World", the first and possibly most "normal" song on the album, acoustic guitars accompany deadpan vocals with sustained guitar drones, as brilliantly sampled orchestral movements and percussion provided by the sounds of soldiers marching send things into another dimension. The demented "78 Soldier Dead" thrashes about drunkenly before unexpectedly switching into the riff to "Sweet Jane". They even offer a totally warped cover of "Twist & Shout", all detached and super German, somehow finding the ability to take all the sweat and emotion out of a frantic crowd pleaser, making it almost clinical. The song begins to sound like it is coming to life with an overblown guitar playing the main melody before everything is overtaken by earsplitting feedback. Elsewhere we find extensive use of trashy guitars in the vein of Pussy Galore, some wailing harmonicas, and hilarious but acidic lyrics conveying a nihilistic interpretation of recent world history (probably that whole being from Germany thing...) The songs represented from 1982 seem to indicate the boys' most fertile drug period, as the mostly 7+ minute songs bring to mind shambolic '60s punks the Godz, meaning a heavy emphasis on noise and atonality which may or may not be as intellectual as some people make it out to be, but kills nonetheless.
Wrapping up this review makes it clear how difficult it is trying to accurately describe a band like 39 Clocks. We realize how often we used the word "noise" in this review, and even comparisons to other bands can't really evaluate the unique vibe of this album. It certainly won't be for everyone, but we know their are enough adventurous aQ customers who will totally love this expansive collection of bizarre rockers. In fact, your assessment of whether or not this is for you could be based on how you respond to lyrics like "I'm the best of all genetic chimps". We dig.
~ Aquarius Records