Edinburgh Fringe 2013
A lipstick-smeared, tantrum-loving, sonic collision between B52’s, Kraftwerk and early Ramones. Their songs are ridiculously infectious and their live show is one of the most irreverent and hilarious gigs you’re ever likely to see.
In their show description, Die Roten Punkte (The Red Dots) namecheck Flight of the Conchords and Spinal Tap – and rightly so. Pretentious art rock is a topic that’s ripe for parody, and Die Roten Punkte know their stuff.
While The White Stripes were never actually brother and sister, Astrid and Otto Rot are the real deal. Not that it does them much good, as Otto’s earnest, innocent personality is often at odds with Astrid’s boisterous egotism. They’re a disaster waiting to happen, but as with Spinal Tap, that’s what you’re paying to see. And like Spinal Tap, their music is both plausible and saddled with farcical song titles. (“Burger Store Dinosaur”, anyone?)
In 2009, Die Roten Punkte visited Edinburgh for the first time, airing their dirty laundry in a show that featured Astrid having an alcoholic breakdown onstage and more incestuous subtext than Jack and Meg White could ever hope to achieve. Now they’re back, slightly more put-together, after a period of contemplation and artistic experimentation in a soundproof bunker, deep in the forests of Germany. Otto has developed a love for Brian Eno, and is very interested in “collecting sounds” on a sampler. Astrid prefers to sing songs about casual sex and swig vodka from a bottle hidden under the drum kit.
The music really is quite good, spanning punk, pop, and art rock (of course). They even take a break in the middle to perform a mini rock-opera about their childhood together. Not only do they have three studio albums under their belt, but they have real art rock credibility in the shape of an occasional association with alt-pop superstar Amanda Palmer.
Although Die Roten Punkte satirise pretentious rock culture, it’s an affectionate kind of mockery. The audience are mostly in on the joke, and the sharper comedy comes from the relationship between Otto and Astrid rather than the music itself. It’s clear from the start that these two people should never have started a band together, siblings or not.
Otto loves music, but despite his smeared lipstick and CBGB t-shirt, he’s about as punk rock as a digestive biscuit. Instead of throwing his jacket off the stage when he takes it off, he folds it neatly and hides it behind an amp. When he’s not playing guitar, his mannerisms are those of a five-year-old boy. Unfortunately, Astrid is not much of a babysitter. Attention-seeking and loud, it’s probably time Astrid embarked on a solo career and left Otto to his Brian Eno-inspired sound sampling. It’s just as well that they really do seem to love each other — in their own special way.