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Music Picks

One Order of Pop, Hold the Product Placement

Peter Fox's German reggae is full of surprises.

By Thom Wong 6 Nov 2008 | TheTyee.ca

Thom Wong is a drone in Her Majesty's Service. He writes regularly about music for The Tyee, and can be found ruminating about the state of menswear at The Sunday Best.

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Seeed's Peter Fox.

Of the many things Germany is known for producing -- geometry sets, luxury cars, Heidi Klum -- pop music tends not to be one of them. And if you listened to Peter Fox's band Seeed, a German reggae band, that opinion would probably have remained unchanged. In fact, the very term "German reggae" is likely enough to have you turning your back on Peter Fox for good.

But funny things happen when artists attached to terrible bands go solo, and in that moving away Fox showed that he's more Timberlake to N'Sync than Nick Carter to the Backstreet Boys.

Fox gets off to a very promising start with the first single from Stadtaffe, "Alles neu." The drum-line marching beat is provided by an actual drum line, Cold Steel, and the looping strings will be stuck in your head for days. Also good is the monkey-infested video. Cold Steel makes a return engagement on "Haus am See", a jazzy number that stays just on the right side of total cliché. Title track "Stadtaffe" shows Fox is not unfamiliar with the works of Tom Waits, recognizing the pop sensibility inherent in the gravel-voiced showman's twisted sound.

Language becomes less of an issue when you consider that lyrics are often the weakest part of any pop song; from a musical standpoint, Fox knows his way around a pop song and isn't afraid to dose it with a lot of orchestration. Unfortunately, his familiarity with American pop sounds means he also falls prey to their most overused conventions: Egyptian-sounding strings on "Fieber," or the heard-it-all-before Kopf Verloren. But you might find this a small price to pay for pop that isn't a non-stop reference to consumer products.

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