How stable is a love for the punk band Die Ärzte? Our author asks herself this after many ups and downs and because of the new album “Hell”.
Lennon-McCartney. Jagger-Richards. Vacation Felsenheimer. As a child I was a big Beatles fan – my favorite Beatle wasn’t one of the main composers, it was Ringo, an absurd choice – but my soft spot for drummers was set. In 1998 my father – a Stones fan – gave me “13”, the then current album by Die Ärzte.
I knew that this work lifted the popularity of the Berlin band to a new level (“Men are pigs”) and that it was the first album that they released on their own label, even though the enormous stress almost led to the dissolution again not yet. When I was six years old at the time, I loved her song “Goldenes Handwerk”: It is about drummers. More precisely, about the one of the doctors – Bela B – I chose him as my hero.
The doctors taught me what irony is: the drummer sings about drummers being stupid ?! Men sing about men being pigs ?! “This is a song for you because you always sucked us”? The concept of provocation was still hidden from me at the time. Where it says in “My Friends”: “They just fuck each other in the buttocks”, I understood at the time: “They just pinch each other’s buttocks like that.”
I only became a doctor ultra as a teenager – her music was a constant companion of my puberty. The world and myself changed, one point of my identity remained fixed: Doctor Fantum. I inhaled all the information I could get about my heroes, dragged my parents to Spandau on vacation in Berlin to visit the historic site of the first meeting of Bela B and Farin Urlaub.
Forget the scandalous times
Every time I got my hands on a new doctor record, it was like being treasured. No strain was too great to be in the front row at their concerts (15 hours without going to the toilet!). Anyone who – like me – was socialized with doctor shows is forever messed up for all other concerts: Only the doctors play three hours, one hour of which is announcements, organize La Ola escapades, spontaneously change lyrics!
The artists are now perceived as dignified, older men – forgotten are the scandalous times when people fought for concerts of the most censored German band to be banned.
In the age of gangsta rap you can’t shock anyone by being a doctor fanatic. Except maybe my grandma, she didn’t want to give me the live DVD “The Band They Called Horse” because she read the song title “Motherfucker 666” on the back of the cover. Sure, I would hardly hang a life-size poster of a skeletonized, bound woman in my room today.
If not about shocking, then it was about demarcation. You don’t understand the doctors? Then you don’t understand me! But actually I don’t want to be understood at all. Because of course you are the only one who really understands the band and you want to have them to yourself. A pious wish if your favorite band is the most successful punk rock band in the country.
Talking nonsense in interviews
You may not be a gifted musician, but that’s not what doctors are about. What they are about is the demarcation of doing things that nobody else does. To become a pop star because you claim to be just that; just talking nonsense on stage and in interviews; dissolve when you are most successful; Lining albums in plush sleeves and pizza boxes; censor your own music video; to be celebrated for level jokes; Compose songs that live from their own turning points.
The band was ultimately partly to blame that I moved to Berlin, and there I experienced the first doctor release as an adult in 2012 and asked myself why my enthusiasm had suddenly cooled: You can’t put it any other way, the doctor album “also” was disappointing. His first line of lyrics, “Fuck you and your sister” from the song “Is that still punk rock?” Has cult status, there wasn’t much more to get. Her song “ZeiDverschwÄndung” was a self-fulfilling prophecy: “There are better things to do than hear the doctors.”
After that it became quiet around the band, the three musicians went their own ways: solo albums, traveling, writing books, making films. Could it really be that the “best band in the world” ended its story in silence?
Afraid of the new album
No. After they re-released their previous complete works in the deluxe box “Seitenhirsch” and thus once again fueled rumors of dissolution, they went on a club tour across Europe in 2019 – they felt like it again and now recorded a new album called “Hell”. Then I heard the first new doctor songs in more than eight years – and was a bit scared of them.
Unfounded, because there it was again, the old magic. An intro with an enigmatic title, sound and charming megalomania: “Our striving for beauty and perfection leads us back to the microphone.” In the second song the clarification: “This is my life – there is no plan B.”
“Hell” is a treasure chest full of cross-references from the medical world: This time it’s not about how stupid drummers are, but how boring guitarists are. Once again the term punk is ironically exercised, Farin sings about summer, sun, beach and sea, Bela about losers.
Bassist Rod has only one song of his own and in it he sings about plastic – Kafka’s “Metamorphosis”, but not with vermin, but with polyester and the climate crisis. An unusually large number of current references scratch the otherwise typical doctor timelessness: conspiracy ideologues, “Woodburger”, Chris Hemsworth, Beyoncé and “Hey Siri, tell me about sex with Alexa”.
The second single, “True Romance”, immediately became a number one hit, thanks to a 1A social media campaign: The track was already released as an a cappella version by the Donots, Carolin under the hashtag #singtrueromance Kebekus, Roland Kaiser, KIZ, den Toten Hosen and others went viral before the original version of the doctors was published.
Of course, “Hell” has weak moments: It’s a shame that so far only songs have been published as B-sides that are already known – this committee is otherwise an amusing navel-gazing in the medical world. But in many places the music on “Hell” feels like coming home. Yes, it’s fun again to hear the doctors.