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Music / Tocotronic

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Left to right: Rick McPhail, Arne Zank, Dirk von Lowtzow, Jan Müller

Tocotronic are a German indie rock band from Germany and were part of the 90s Hamburg indie scene ("Hamburger Schule"). They are one of the most successful bands of that scene and are frequently named alongside with Blumfeld and Die Sterne.

There were somewhat of an underground sensation in their early years and mesmerized the Hamburg audience with substandard instrument skills yet memorable lyrics, catchy songwriting and stage charisma. Since their foundation in 1993, they progressed from a Dinosaur Jr.-inspired band towards more professional music recording.



  • Digital ist besser (1995)
  • Nach der verlorenen Zeit (1995)
  • Wir kommen um uns zu beschweren (1996)
  • Es ist egal, aber (1997)
  • K.O.O.K. (1999)
  • Tocotronic (2002) - nicknamed Das weiße Album (The white album)
  • Pure Vernunft darf niemals siegen (2005)
  • Kapitulation (2007)
  • Schall & Wahn (2010)
  • Wie wir leben wollen (2013)
  • Tocotronic (2015) - nicknamed Das rote Album (The red album)
  • Die Unendlichkeit (2018)
  • Nie Wieder Krieg (2022)

Tocotronic provides examples of:

  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Both Dirk and Arne posed as such.
  • Continuity Nod: Dirk's hate on guitar traders displayed in Hamburg Rockt is revisited in Ich Werde Mich Nie Verändern.
  • Cover Version: Racist Friend, originally by Turbonegro.
  • Darker and Edgier: Notably more serious in tone since their self-titled album from 2002.
  • Denser and Wackier: Before them, only serious agitprop leftists and dead-serious fatalist philosophers like Blumfeld and Die Goldenen Zitronen hit the Hamburg scene.
    • Even on the albums this happened. Arne Zank's few songs are even wackier than Dirk's.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Their first concert had Dirk on drums while Arne played the guitar.
  • Epic Rocking: The three climactic jams on Wir kommen um uns zu beschweren.
  • Expy: The early sound was closely modeled after Dinosaur Jr.
  • Genre Shift: From sloppy indie rock with quirky lyrics to serious, melodramatic indie rock with abstract lyrics.
  • "I Hate" Song: Especially on their early albums. Examples include: Freiburg, Ich verabscheue euch wegen euer Kleinkunst zutiefst and Gehen die Leute
  • Mind Screw: Dirk has his moments, but Arne Zank wins this category with songs like An Einem Dienstag im April that are about waking up, realizing that everything will go wrong just to realize at the end of a day that even that didn't work out.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: Tocotronic is an Expy of the Beatles' White Album. ''Wie wir leben wollen" is minimalistic as well.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The whole point of songs like Ich Wünschte Ich Würde Mich Für Tennis Interessieren.
    • Put up to eleven in that song, obviously meant as a parody of Tear Jerker songs.
  • No Ending: Jungs, Hier Kommt der Masterplan sounds like the tape broke, possibly a reference to the Just Like Heaven cover by Dinosaur Jr.
  • Perishing Alt-Rock Voice: Not so in recent years, but Dirk was the flagship of this style in Germany.
  • Serious Business: This band loves playing with this trope.
    • Played straight in Ich verabscheue euch wegen eurer Kleinkunst zutiefst, which is a mean verbal attack on cabaretists.
    • Spoofed in Ich Wünschte Ich Würde Mich Für Tennis Interessieren, in which Dirk sings about how we would love to care for tennis, while almost breaking his voice in a ridiculously emotional performance.
    • Exaggerated in Freiburg: Dirk aligns random things about the city (among them: bicycle riders and backgammon players) and how he hates them.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Jan sings Es ist einfach Rockmusik, Arne sings some songs on the first four albums.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: "Ich verabscheue euch wegen eurer Kleinkunst zutiefst'' rants about cabaret.
  • Rock Trio: Up until 2004 when Rick officially became their fourth member.
  • Rule of Cool: The whole reason why they became famous is the fact they they simply didn't care that they couldn't sing or play.
  • Shout-Out: Frequently. To Team Dresch in Die Sache mit der Team Dresch Platte, to Michael Ende in Michael Ende, du hast mein Leben zerstört and to The Fall in Ich habe geträumt, ich wäre Pizza essen mit Mark E. Smith. And "Bumms und Bi" (on "Bitte oszillieren Sie") is no reference to sex, as one might think, but to German poet Hubert Fichte.
  • Seinfeldian Lyrics: Dirk rants about basically nothing in a quite lot of early songs.
  • Singer Name Drop: Wir sind hier nicht in Seattle, Dirk, Date mit Dirk and This Boy is Tocotronic
  • The Slacker: Dirk von Lowtzow's early stage persona. Later evolved into The Dandy.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Their later work is hard to place, due to the abstract nature of the lyrics, but their early work slides up an down, depending on the song.
    • Die Idee ist gut, Doch die Welt noch nicht bereit is a ridiculous deconstruction of idealism. The song is about how the protagonist sets out to the city to comfort random strangers but is turned down every time.
  • Textless Album Cover: Tocotronic (2015) (The Red Album)
  • The Snark Knight: Dirk von Lowtzow snarks his way through every Tocotronic album.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: Sometimes even four!
  • Translated Cover Version: Schlittenflug, a cover of Flexible Flyer by Hüsker Dü, sung in German.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: They never really were economical with lyrics, but it went completely out of hand since their self-titled album.