“Berlin is the testicle of the West. When I want the West to scream, I squeeze on Berlin.” – Nikita Khrushchev
Describing Berlin as a male gonad is not the same sacrilege as referring to Paris or Rome as part of the male anatomy. No one writes love songs about Berlin, the same way no one would ever write a love song about a testicle. Much like love, you often have to avoid falling into the trap of pursuing the prettiest flower and instead find the one that’s right for you. Sometimes renting a 1968 Schwalbe KR-51 moped and riding around a city like Berlin, exploring the main thoroughfares and back alleys, can help inspire a love affair no one thought was coming. Clare and the Reasons have accomplished such a feat with the release of KR-51, named after the vehicle that served as their magic carpet in Germany’s capitol city.
This is the third album from the band, which was recorded in both Berlin and the German countryside, a transitionin between cacophony and tranquility. Clare Muldaur Manchon’s vocals percolate through music provided by herself as well as her husband and fellow collaborator Olivier Manchon. In addition to the happy couple, the album features performances by band mate Bob Hart as well as members of the Orchestre de Paris and drummer James McAlister (Sufjan Stevens, Pedro the Lion).
“The Lake” is the first single from KR-51. A recent breakup devastates Muldaur Manchon as she opines about having never made it to the lake – a future plan now dissolving in the acid of separation. A few notes in and I’m reaching for a blanket needing to wrap myself up in security.
“Got a rock in my shoe, but I can’t be bothered. And I go to the movies, just to be in the dark. There were songs in my ears, but I can’t remember how to sing them.”
The second single from KR-51, “Make Them Laugh”, is the story of a clown- born into the circus world and now assuming the “big shoes” left behind by a father. The repeat of the verse “This is what it takes, just to make them laugh” serves as a personal mantra repeated ad nauseam to prevent the clown from losing his mind after having already “lost your shadow”. The delicate tenor of Muldaur Manchon is so near destruction on this song it feels like a butterfly’s wing supporting the weight of a boulder.
KR-51 echoes like a love affair with all the requisite emotional free-falls that hitchhike along for the ride. Who knew Berlin was such a hopeless romantic?
KR-51 (Frog Stand Records) is available now.