39 Clocks

Cold-War Germany apparently had a small but striking punk scene; it wasn't all spun-out free-jazz and studio-wonk kosmiche.

Consider Hanover's 39 Clocks, which earns at least two badges of honor, one for being a black sheep, another for being categorically exceptional. The patient, tape-hiss-drenched primitivistic punk of Young Marble Giants; the mantra-like verse-chorus structure of the cerebral Velvets; the compulsively-precise, metronomic, no-fills drums of Harmonia. The wryness of Television with a less skeptical embrace of the garage vibe that band aped, sometimes with a mocking denigration.

Their compass' true north is somewhere in the land of psychedelic hippie rot, though, and that's ultimately what makes them so unusual. Behind the doomy boom, the garbled baritone, the blackout shades and oiled motorcycle jackets, there's a stoned unseriousness, comforting and groovy.