Kliche (1977-1983)

By Peter Elsnab, journalist and Jesper Nykjær Knudsen, music editor og journalist, 2006

Danish rock in new packaging

Few bands, like Kliché, have manifested themselves so strongly in such a short life. The Aarhus band just released two albums, but it was enough to send Danish rock into a new era. with Supertanker Kliché captures a transition in Danish society, both politically and artistically. With their anarchic approach and mechanical minimalism, the Quartet took away both the hippie time and the grandiose American 70s rock. And at the same time creating potent pop melodies.

Modernist pessimism

The band uses the supertanker as a picture of the consumer society - many goods must be shipped. But behind "consumerism" loneliness and alienation lurk in the blue-cool neon-shards of the cities, facade-filled suburbs and desolate apartment buildings.

"Altid væk / i en sky / der' så stort / i min by / og du er lige så grå / og død / og her er ik' noget at lave", sings Lars Hug with pronounced "modernist" lyrics in the song "Aldrig Mere". Poets such as Michael Strunge and Søren Ulrik Thomsen cultivate the same mix of everyday realism, kindness and dreams. But Kliché is more than this "black romance".

Postmodern play

Kliché gives a far-flung color, and the ceremony gets a shot of irony. Modernism becomes "postmodernism" when Kliché plays with the form and makes fun of tumultuous political ideologies. Two of the songs are thus based on the phrases of the Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong. The track "Masselinjen" lasts ten minutes, but contains only the words: "Folket og kun folket / er drivkraften / i skabelsen af verdenshistorien" (The people and only the people / are the driving force / in the creation of world history).
And what does Lars Hug really mean when he sings on "Militskvinder": "Hvor strålende og stolte de ser ud / med lange rifler over skuldrene / på paradepladsen / oplyst af dagens første stråler / Kinas døtre har sind, der stræber højt / De elsker uniformer / ikke silkestoffer".
Kliché was inspired by both the techno pioneers in the German group Kraftwerk and by the punk movement and "art rockers" such as David Bowie and Bryan Ferry's Roxy Music. And today we can see trails from Kliché in Nephew's synth-driven "statement-rock" and Magtens Korridor that have Kliché's hit "Militskvinder" on the set list.

Kliche in 1980. Photo: Mogens Laier/Scanpix.
Kliche; Kliche rockgruppe
Cover for Supertanker, 1980. ©Warner Music.
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Did you know?

Source: Jan Laursen, Danmarks Radio.

One of the original members of Kliche, Jens Valo, left the group shortly after Supertanker had been released. As a replacement for Valo, the current lead singer in TV-2, Steffen Brandt, was invited. At that time Brandt played keyboard in the group Taurus. Steffen Brandt was not in Kliche for very long, and in 1981 he was replaced by Niels Torp, who today plays in the band Souvenirs. Niels Torp joined Kliche's album Okay Okay Boys from 1982.

The committee's justification

By the Committee for Music, 2006

It seemed to be a happening, a clear provocation, when Danish rock band Kliché entered a new decade with an album that included, among other things, music to the poems of Mao Zedong and recited them so they were unrecognisable, whether they meant every word or intended to point out the postulating falsity.
If there were doubts, this was because the meaningful part of 1970s Danish rock had been so politicising that it was difficult to hear the poetry through simple slogans, so with Supertanker, Kliché intended to turn around what was so burdened by clichés that the only way to approach the truth was to rediscover the face value of the words. Hence the matter-of-factness and bareness. Supertanker is political rock cleansed and reborn, filled with meaning about alienation, abandonment and the utopian belief in something that looked like the future, incarnated in Lars H.U.G’s expressive voice. 

Something sounding like a Farfisa organ runs through extremely simplified melodic patterns with manic consistency, clinically cleansed of aesthetic effects, only to, in a brief second-long jolt, change character and incorporate traditional echoes of The Beach Boys and something that sounds like residual inspiration from Alrune Rod and Gnags. Throughout, there are hints of contemporary British rock with David Bowie as a role model. Minimalism, before it became a fashionable word. An album without a solution, that ended up on eternity’s Danish pop chart. So paradoxical is good pop and enduring art.

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