Album Review: Tankard - "A Girl Called Cerveza"
Tankard has always been the bridesmaid of German thrash. Part of the vanguard during Germany’s answer to America’s Big 4, Tankard has seen thirty years go by without a single interruption in productivity or scandalous episode. Yet, they’ve never been escorted down the aisle or asked for their hand in marriage; the tenets of super-popularity elude them.
Tankard’s newest studio album (their fifteenth such effort,) keeps rigid to the tent poles of European thrash: the antiseptic cleanliness, the strong emphasis on guitar and subjugation of percussion, and the idea that each lead note, no matter the tempo, should be able to stand firm as its own argument. This kind of musical precision, often overlooked (either intentionally or accidentally,) from West of the Atlantic, is an essential part of the Tankard experience, and serves to prove that Tankard is every bit as capable now as they were in the late ‘80s. Track after track, from “Rapid Fire (A Tyrant’s Elegy)” to the title track prominently feature this exact mechanic. Continuing the analogy, this would be the band’s “something old.”
There are some standout moments on “A Girl Called Cerveza,” and they both occur in sections where the band has turned their attention to something other than drinking. “Fandom at Random” is a song both musically sharp and lyrically satirical; not in a bitter, cynical way, but with something bordering on honest humor. The same accolades go for “Masters of Farces,” but the humor is replaced with a mocking construction of the wealthy. In either case, the tempo is pushed full-bore, urging the listener to go find a mosh pit somewhere. Without being especially fancy or technically accomplished, Tankard plays within their comfort zone and produces some efforts that work to great effect.
Beyond just replicating the standards that we’ve come to expect as thrash fans, Tankard also comes equipped with “something new”. Where “A Girl Called Cerveza” departs from their European brethren and takes “something borrowed” from their American counterparts is in tying the theatre of the absurd into their lyrics. While the thrash prerequisite of decrying and mocking the ruling elite continues (even so far as joining the resurrected bandwagon of singing these songs from first person,) most of the songs are concerned with the machinations of beer. Obtaining it, drinking it, keeping it, spilling it, having it stolen – these are the common themes of Tankards’s alcohol-fueled thrashfest. Look no further than “Son of a fridge” to hear a surprisingly musically articulate (and lyrically mundane,) explanation of one man’s relationship to beer and life. To this end, Tankard shares more in common with GWAR than they do with their contemporaries such as Sodom or Destruction.
However, as is often the case with bridesmaids and confidence friends the world over, part of the reason Tankard gets overlooked for attention by suitors is that they don’t have an especially gripping story to tell. To wit, for a band who has released fifteen albums across four decades, Tankard’s entry at Allmusic is astonishingly short. While their contemporaries juggled lineup changes, shifts to and fore in musical idiom, created controversy, retired and resurrected multiple times and took on the social issues of the day, Tankard was trying to find more words that rhyme with “beer.” Which works but, with the exception of AC/DC, rarely results in widespread fame. So when Tankard seems angry and takes on the issue in “Not One Day Dead (But One Day Mad,)” the answer to their question seems evident when viewed in context of the rest of the album. Thematically and musically, it’s an awful lot of the same thing.
“A Girl Called Cerveza” may not be the world’s most analytical album, but for ten songs predominantly about drinking, it doesn’t need to be. It’s a perfectly capable record, enjoyable in many sections and never disappointing. Nonetheless, as this summer wedding season goes by, Tankard will have to buy another couple of dresses – not for their own wedding of course, but to stand in support of Accept and Kreator, watching those bands get married again while wondering when and if their turn will be. Always the bridesmaid.