Tokio Hotel

Pub date August 13, 2008
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features

PREVIEW When I think of German music, Kraut-rock innovators and industrial metal gods usually come to mind. I always assumed Americans generated enough angsty, guyliner-donning teenage emo superstars to go around, but a quaint four-piece from Madgeburg, Germany, has proved me wrong.

Tokio Hotel released their debut, Schrei (Universal), in their native Deutschland in 2005 three weeks after the lead vocalist’s 16th birthday. Their first single, "Durch den Monsun," instantly reached No. 1 on the German charts, and the pubescent pretty boys were quickly propelled into pan-European superstardom. The band’s first tour sold out 43 venues in Germany alone, followed by packed engagements across the continent. Last year’s performance in front of the Eiffel Tower drew 500,000 fans. If you watch clips from that show on YouTube, be prepared for low audio quality: it’s hard to hear the music over all the fangirl screaming.

After the success of their sophomore effort, 2007’s Zimmer 483 (Universal), and various behind-the-scenes DVDs, Tokio Hotel had all of Europe on lock. So the powers-that-be decided the band was ready for a stab at the only success that matters: the American kind. Scream, released stateside in March by Universal, is Tokio Hotel’s first album in English and consists solely of translated versions of their earlier hits. ("Spring Nicht" is now "Don’t Jump," "Schrei" is now "Scream"). I’d be lying if I said that their songs sounded uniquely German, or even vaguely European. Nope, Tokio Hotel pretty much sounds like the Svengali-produced version of every emo/alt-rock outfit that this country has dreamed up. And they look the part too: boy-band-esque dreamboats who gleaned makeup tips from Robert Smith.

Maybe that’s what’s so creepily German about Tokio Hotel: they’ve taken an often-cheesy but largely authentic American genre and repackaged it anew as a heartthrob fantasy for tweens with frizzy hair. Charisma meets efficiency, I guess.

TOKIO HOTEL Tues/19, 9 p.m., $25. Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. (415) 346-6000,