The Notwist Better Than Radiohead on Close to the Glass

The Notwist, Close to the Glass (out now, Sub Pop)

Last November, Sub Pop teased fans by announcing it had signed a mystery band, releasing a 15-second snippet of a new song and the hint that the band was “an artist that we’ve been HUGE fans of for years—artists with an established fan base who would be welcome at any record label that they please.” The snippet, a glitched-out, kraut-rocking mess of tabla drum samples and airy falsetto cooing, led 90 percent of online musical sleuths to guess something along the lines of Radiohead. The label’s mystery band turned out to be German indie rockers The Notwist—but to be fair, Close to the Glass, the band’s first release in five years, does sound a lot like Radiohead; frontman Markus Acher’s vocal stylings and penchant for dread-filled lyricism are dead ringers for Thom Yorke’s apocalypse-obsessed whimpers. The fact of the matter is, however, that The Notwist has been doing the broken-computer-music thing since 1998, two years before Radiohead krauted-out Kid A ’s buggy dystopian tunes. If anything, it can be argued that Radiohead sounds like The Notwist, not the opposite. Yet both bands have their sleepy moments, and Glass has its share, but for the most part there are lots of interesting ideas here. The tabla-driven glitch of the eponymous single is hyper-rhythmic in the best way—your brain will want to move around as much as your body does. “Run Run Run” is a complete reworking of what was originally “a simple blues song,” according to the band; the end result, the product of each member “manipulating each other’s performance,” is a skittering, bleeping tune that sounds like a dial-up modem hanging out at a goth club (dressed all in black, natch). But luckily for older fans, Glass isn’t without some classic early-Notwist guitar rock—“7-Hour-Drive” is a shoegazing tunnel of blissful, warping feedback that hearkens back to the band’s ’90s roots while incorporating its newer plinkerpop tendencies.

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