Germany Hill isn’t just a band. It’s a place, a tract of open space between Roxborough and Manayunk. It’s an anomaly, twenty acres of sylvan hillsides nestled between two northwestern Philadelphia neighborhoods. Over many years Germany Hill has meant different things to different people. Google “Germany Hill” and you’ll see that recently the location has been a point of contention between neighbors and developers with local politicians caught in the middle.
Just as “The Hill” (as it’s commonly referred to by natives of Roxborough and Manayunk, PA) has been a bridge and a border between neighborhoods, it’s now also a common link and a divisive wedge. For generations of teenagers, Germany Hill has been a place where relationships are forged, fractured, and obliterated. Certainly more than a few have even been consummated there.
Germany Hill, with its history, its current uncertainty, and its emotional connotations, best represents who the band Germany Hill is and what they’ve created on their eponymous debut album. Musically, Joe and Felix comprise the bisected halves of Germany Hill. On Joe’s songs he takes lead vocals and rhythm guitar with Felix providing background or harmony vocals and lead guitar. On Felix’s song, they switch duties. Initially, Joe and Felix planned on releasing an album of songs arranged for voice and guitar only with very little production, but when they asked friend/multi-instrumentalist/engineer/co-producer Joe “Big Note” Stout to try “Lucy” as a “piano song,” they quickly realized how many possibilities they were sacrificing for a single concept – fidelity to their live shows. They could record a gig in a lot less time and for a lot less money than the studio album they had already embarked upon. Joe Stout plays all over the record, and his presence (and incredible talent) allowed Joe and Felix to record songs from several subgenres of rock and roll.
Unlike the mélange of musical styles on the record, the lyrical content toes a wide, but clearly delineated line – relationships. Once the relationship theme had been identified, Joe and Felix sifted through their individual catalogs, selecting fitting tunes. Felix even had a title in mind for the album – a line from a poem he’d written years ago. The record was going to be called A Many Splintered Thing until Elvis Costello used the phrase in one of his songs. The songs on Germany Hill depict relationships of many types – romantic, professional, abusive, familial, creative, and spiritual. The most commonly examined relationship on the album is the one between the two halves of a divided self.