Clare Manchon, Olivier Manchon, and Bob Hart spent eight months in Germany writing and recording the third Clare & the Reasons album, KR-51. Released this week it's is an epic, almost operatic pop record that finds its strength in Clare's artful vocals, but also in the lush arrangements that are bolstered by a 23-piece orchestra. It's another impressively stylish effort that will surely please those who discovered, and loved, either of the band's previous albums. We asked them for some highlights from their time in Germany for this week's Poplist.
First, here's a track from KR-51...
Clare Manchon's Berlin picks.
*The Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe
Many people go there but most seem to miss the downstairs memorial section (it's easy to miss because it's tucked within the risen concrete slabs) . It's a stunningly profound homage to those who were killed by the Nazis. It's also located right by the Tier Garden, a beautiful park and forest rebuilt after the occupation. There are some really great GDR buildings around there to gaze at as well as the much abused Brandenburg Gate. When you walk in the entrance of the memorial, there is a quote saying "If it happened once, it can happen again". I believe this to be both very scary, and very true.
*On a lighter note, the best ice cream- possibly in the world, is a little place in Berlin called Naschkatze. It's on Raumerstr in Prenzlauerberg in Helmholtzplatz, a serene little hood. We call this ice cream place "inappropriate ice cream" (as do many of our friends in Berlin now too) because one of the first times I went there I ordered some chocolate ice cream and fresh mint and the gentleman working there (who claimed to be from Chicago but barely spoke any English) told me, speaking of his ice cream: "It is very hard because I just took it from behind". If that's not refreshing, and wonderfully inappropriate, not sure what is. The next time I went there to get sour cherry and lemon, he said, "I've seen you around here, baby", in an amazing fake sort of mafia accent but totally drowned in his German one. We were devotees to this ice cream place the whole time in Berlin.
*Best espresso in Berlin, and possibly outside of Italy is a roaster in Berlin called Bonanza.
It's location is across from the deeply historically relevant Mauerpark. Apparently there are only three of these espresso machines in Europe and they roast their own. It's pretty serious. It's on Oderbergerstr, which I mention in our song "The Mauerpark". Oderbergerstr is a stunningly beautiful street, the light hits it just the right way, but it's been treacherously harassed by road construction for three years. They keep digging up the pavement, fixing something, and then laying it back down. The ones in the know say that it's contractors trying to drive people out of their rent controlled apts so they can be renovated and prices jacked up. So, you have the perfect aroma of the greatest espresso mixed with jack hammers and backhoes. I got really into it and it always sent me off into my days of writing music amused.
*Some great German recordings that kept me company are:
The Comedian Harmonists.
Olivier Manchon's Berlin picks.
*The Philharmonie, home of the Berliner Philharmoniker.
It is an incredibly well designed concert hall. Built in the 60's, it is an astounding sounding room, home of the Berliner Philharmoniker, arguably one of the greatest orchestras in the known universe. Its design makes it so there is no bad seat in the house. The orchestra is surrounded by its audience, a design which has been replicated in many concert halls around the world since. They have managed over there to make the orchestra a real rock star. The concerts are usually packed and the audience screaming and shouting at the end. I have the memory of a performance that we all (by that, I mean all members of the Reasons) attended of Shostakovich Symphony No 5, so intense that we were screaming for 20 minutes at the end of the performance, just like we would never do at a Justin Bieber concert.
*Now my real favorite spot in Berlin... forget the ping pong, the good food, the incredible beer, the achitecture, the wall...the real best place for me in Berlin, is on the back of Annette Schwalbe. Annette is the name I chose for my old 1968 East German Schwalbe scooter. It is an incredible piece of machinery. A very simple engine, manual transmission with a 3 gear gearbox, it is my favorite way to roam around the town, usually, with a wife on the back seat, holding a camera, rain or shine.
*To conclude, I wanted to talk about Tempelhof. It is a crazy massive airport, built in the middle of the city in the 20's. It was put to use by the Nazi government in the 30's who just turned it into a massive concrete and marble monster in the center of the city. It is just fascinating to see and hear that the lower levels are still flooded since the war, to avoid the booby traps left by the Germans after the war. The role of Tempelhof after it became under the control of the US is also one of the most particular moments in human history. After that it because a functioning commercial airport and my dad used to land and take off there regularly as a young pilot. It hasn't been used since 2007 and only for small local planes towards the end, but it is now the grounds for events of all kinds: parties, music festivals... we even got to get inside some of the buildings when we visited the place during the 125th anniversary of Mercedes Benz. I don't particularly care about cars, but it was totally worth a visit. Every single model ever made by Mercedes was there, on the grounds of this insane airport with old Mercedes racing cars racing on the old runways.
Bob Hart's Berlin picks:
The best dumplings in Berlin. The waitress would get really mad if we weren't clear about what we wanted to order, but they will bring you a plate of 40 of the tastiest vegetarian dumplings you can buy, for about 8 euros. Adding to the charm are slightly eroticized paintings of the restaurant's waitresses adorning the walls.
*Prater restaurant and beer garden
In the middle of Prenslauerberg is Prater, where you can sit for hours drinking Prater Pils and eating a giant freshly made schnitzel with asparagus. I consider myself a most-of-the-time vegetarian, but I'll make an exception for this schnitzel!
*The ping pong tables on Dunckerstrasse
Around the corner from our friend's apartment, between two big apartment houses, are a couple of ping pong tables. After a day of rehearsing, you can get some amazing ice cream and play ping pong until it's too dark to see. There were some epic matches there...