More things unearthed from the depths of my music drive: Tokio Hotel.

Tokio Hotel is one of those things that makes people tell me my music collection is full of unlistenable crap. It  has nothing to do with the way they sound, so much as the fact that they started very, very young, and have generally been regarded as the kind of band obsessively followed by tweener girls. Pop-punk bands combine the slick production that makes artsy people look down on pop, with the lack of angry violence that makes hardcore punks look down on the rest of humanity, and as a result I get a lot of eye-rolls over Tokio Hotel and Paramore and the handful of Avril Lavigne tracks I like.

I can't be the only person on the planet who actually likes their music. They've been racking up awards since 2005 without a break, which is especially impressive considering that they haven't had a studio release since 2010. (One's due out this year.) The entire reason I know who Russell Brand is in the first place is that I was watching the MTV Video Music Awards the year he hosted, to see if Tokio Hotel managed to win a thing. They did, for this:

"Ready, Set, Go!"

which was interesting in that it made them the first German band to net a VMA, and also because that's the only time I have ever seen their lead singer speechless, albeit not for very long. They landed that before they were even old enough to drink in the US, although this in no way prevented them from getting completely wrecked at the afterparty.

You wouldn't know it to look at them, but the singer (Bill Kaulitz) and the guitarist (Tom Kaulitz, the one in dreads) are identical twins -- if you want a demonstration of a lot of the body language I talk about as being characteristic of twins, take a look at some of their vlogs up on YouTube. They pretty much sit on each other if they get the chance, finish each other's sentences, and just generally function as if they're half-intermeshed at all times. The pair of them are also rather protective of one another; Bill is louder and feistier, but Tom is meaner if he feels the need to say something. They're endearingly open about this and have so far resisted any efforts to split them up for any reason, to the point where even the entertainment PR people have learned it's both safer and easier on their mental health not to try.

They also have the full panoply of problems that come with being excruciatingly smart kids, which includes a chronic inability to shut up. Rather than edit anything out, they choose instead to yammer along at lightspeed, Bill especially. It is a bad idea to practice your German on Bill. I thought I was totally fail for only catching about half of what he said, until actual German people came along to assure me that no, that's all anybody ever gets. They went through a stage where they looked perpetually frustrated at being unable to do the same in English, particularly the part where less-bright people were perpetually unsure if they were lacking in fluency or saying weird snarky things on purpose. (On purpose, nearly always. The TRL people were especially bad at noticing when they were being screwball -- it was fairly embarrassing, although not for the band.) Checking YouTube, I note that now that they live in LA they are totally past this, and once again stomping all over each other's words in interviews.

The band has recorded in both their native German and in English; their third studio album, Humanoid, was released roughly simultaneously in both languages. I don't know who was responsible for writing/checking over their translations, but the lyrics are impressively close equivalents; pop songs are often simply rewritten in the new language, given how difficult it is to preserve rhyme and rhythm when translating, but I can count the places where the original and the English diverge on this album on my fingers. The main one is Hey Du, which involves an android, as versus Hey You, which is thematically related, but completely re-done with much more generic, human-centric lyrics:

"Hey You!" (Humanoid Tour Live)

You may notice there that Bill is dressed rather like an alien who has just discovered haute couture and hair products. He does that a lot. I think it's nifty to watch for the same reason I thought it was nifty to watch when David Bowie did it, which is mostly that it seems to make him happy. I also appreciate that he only insists on being dressed that way personally, and has no problem with the rest of the band turning up in regular Earth clothes.

The band's sound tends to be 'hot' and heavily-produced, as much new wave/glam/pop-punk is. It's not, as far as I can tell, in order to cover any deficiencies in their performances; they do acoustic things from time to time, and they sound fine. The husky vocals are distinctive and not an affectation -- Bill's speaking voice sounds like that, too, and he's sung like that since he was a kid. I am not kidding when I say they started young, he's about thirteen or fourteen in this:

"Durch den Monsun"

(Note for the curious: The singer's dying his hair, not the guitarist. They're really Saxon-blond.)

Fifteenish in this:

"Rette Mich"

And eighteenish here:

"1000 Oceans"


  1. Twin acts that have caught my attention in recent years:

    the rap duo Elephant, formed by openly gay twins Jackson and Coleman Vrana. I don't have much hip-hop in my collection, but I like their hit "Queer Nation".

    Also, Jade and Nikita Ramsey, who made their acting debut as those horror staples, the psycho-killer twin girls, in drag queen Peaches Christ's directorial debut "All About Evil"; Peaches said they won the audition by synchronizing their breathing during it, which enhanced their uncanny one-person-in-two-parts quality.


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