The music blares, that familiar Nuggets-type heavy garage rock, the singer affects a cool-as-fuck bored Anglo-Germanic accent, he announces,
‘We’re the Bunkers, this is ‘Toe The Line’
Welcome to 1960. Welcome to the new order. Welcome to totalitarian garage rock. Welcome to a great track. Welcome to Neumond Classics, a collection that proclaims itself ‘the only collection with the biggest hits from the 1960’s’ and ‘The 1960’s – a time of peace, prosperity and rock ‘n’ roll’. The nine singles collected here run the gamut of 60’s sounds from surf rock (The Comet Tails – Weltraumsurfen), boy/girl balladry (Karl und Karla – Tapferer Kleiner Liebling) and a familiar sounding foursome (Die Kafer – Mond, Mond, Ja, Ja!); only Motown really seems to be missing. Apart from an accordion* heavy cover of ‘House of the Rising Sun’, all are original tracks.
All so far, so odd. Until you realize that we are in a very different 1960’s to the one we knew. The Nazis won the war and went on to establish a global Reich**, what we have on this spiffing red vinyl LP is the officially sanctioned music of the 1960’s, almost all of it propaganda – the bits that aren’t seemingly dedicated to keeping everyone numb and happy. The Bunkers were not being ironic, to paraphrase someone or other ‘they mean it man!’. WTF? close, Neumond Classics is a promotional spinoff for the new game Wolfenstein: The New Order^, set in just such an alternate timeline.
In order to create as immersive an environment as possible, Bethesda software decided to give the 1960’s a makeover, their attention to detail going as far as to commission these works. You can read a proper article about it here. So whilst you stagger around occupied Britain, Gibraltar and the Moon, twin assault rifles cocked and ready, you get to hear these hits playing from radios in the game, even finding vinyl copies – whereupon you get biographical details of the artists. True story. This level of detail really doesn’t surprise me coming from my favourite games studio who used music and radio to such brilliant effect in Fallout 3 and Fallout 3: New Vegas – two of my favourite games ever, it was however quite amazing to stumble across the vinyl on the Bethesda website when I was telling my dad all about it. There it was, red vinyl, 500 copies (mine is #378).
I am really enjoying playing Wolfenstein: The New Order, even though I am supremely crap at it ^^(I’m even playing on the super easy-peasy, cissy difficulty level) and as well as an item that one I day I will be able to sell before enjoying a long and luxurious retirement on the proceeds, this functions very well as a neat commemorative, conceptual souvenir of the game too.
Which is just as well as I’m not too sure how long I care to spend in the company of Hans ‘The singing soldier’ and his blockbuster hit ‘Mein Kleiner VW’, or even the sinister psych of Schwarz-Rote-Welle ‘Ich Bin Uberall’ (I am everywhere). Incidentally those lovable singing stormtroopers, Die Kafer? translate the name. The Bunkers though? they’re really good.
*just goes to show once you let a bit of accordion into your life, who knows where it might stop.
**by means of technological advances that I can’t reveal without spoiling things.
^not a game where you get to pit Peter Hook and co against the hordes of the Third Reich – missed a bit of an opportunity there if you ask me, Bethesda. Actually, maybe they just decided it would be a no contest – Peter Hook can get pretty grumpy.
^^Pinko liberal bleeding-heart that I am, I do acknowledge that there is a very serious debate to be had on the game regarding it’s co-opting Nazi Germany for an item of entertainment, on three levels – firstly that it will attract ‘the wrong elements’ to the game, secondly that it trivializes that history and lastly that it equates Nazis with Germans. On the first point I don’t know enough to have an opinion as to whether it does or not and on the third point the resistance movement in the game is international, but with a strong German element to it, I’m easy with the game on that point, but perhaps a German may have a different view.
My views on whether it does trivialize the war are a little more ambiguous, Wolfenstein co-opts the Nazis in order to capitalise on our 70+ years of collective, cultural knowledge that the Nazis were the ultimate baddies, an enemy you can have no sympathy for, any real empathy towards (in a similar manner to generic ‘drug dealers in the 1980’s, before we got to our more nuanced portrayals in popular culture today). Within the game you do learn about atrocities and are presented with the human cost of that at times, but this is a shoot ’em up game. All history is here, solely to provide a setting for the action. Is Wolfenstein: The New Order any different from a totalitarian sci-fi, or a novel like Robert Harris’ Fatherland in that respect? does the very fact that it is a game inherently trivialize matters? Possibly, I haven’t quite worked my way through that one yet. But it strikes me that if we’re looking to any branch of the entertainment industry to provide us with moral guidance, or to behave with all appropriate decorum, then we’re a bit screwed anyway.