Geoff Berner

We Are Going To Bremen To Be Musicians

BY Sarah GreenePublished Oct 19, 2015

Canada cannot contain Geoff Berner, who will soon take his Socalled-produced sixth album, We Are Going To Bremen To Be Musicians, on tour through Europe. The accordionist, songwriter and novelist (his 2013 novel Festival Man is a highly observant, hilarious send up of Canadian folk fest culture) calls his new album a "compendium of Klezmer-punk strategies against despair." That's a mouthful, but the record is definitely a noisy, unorthodox political celebration.
"Swing a Chicken 3 Times Over Your Head," moves between '50s-style rock'n'roll, a little Richman-ish banter and some borrowed "Redemption Song" before landing back on Klezmer, while "Dance And Celebrate" draws its humour from a darker side of Jewish identity — namely, the tradition of celebrating the misfortunes of those we hate — spitting vaudevillian venom at Stalin before ending with a cheering squad-like call for the demise of Stephen Harper.
Elsewhere the politics are more local ("Condos" is about Vancouver, though plenty of cities can relate) or more personal (feeling ambivalent about Chanukah). Sometimes, the album gets angry (the frenetic "Thank You, No Thank You," for example), but then Berner provides a foil like "I Don't Feel So Mad At God When I See You In Your Summer Dress," a reliable smile-inducer.
And his band rocks. "When DD Gets Her Donkey, Everything Will Be Alright" is danceable, Middle Eastern-style punk, while slow atmospheric caravan music carries the German fable from which the album draws its name. The music provides a playfully subversive and groovy take on Klezmer, even when Berner's not singing anything.

Latest Coverage