I’ll Be a Virgin ... CD

I’ll Be a Virgin, I’ll Be a Mountain

CD/LP, V2 Records 2006

NME [7/10]

Sometimes it’s necessary to weep uncontrollably into your pillow about lost loves, broken hearts and who makes the better baked beans – and this is something that Maximilian Hecker knows all too well. Hecker, a fragile young German man, is a rather soppy so-and-so and doesn’t care who knows it. Whether he’s shunting his delicate singer songwriter schtick on "Snow White" or feyly tapping the xylophone on "Feel Like Children", he has the air of a sensitive toddler who’s just had his Haribo taken off him. He perks up a touch on "Wilted Flower", but you can still almost hear his bottom lip quivering throughout. Stuff this, can I get a flight to Germany please? I think someone needs a hug.

Q Magazine | Poppy melancholia from the German Elliot Smith [3/5]

For three albums, Maximilian Hecker has quietly meandered. Now, having recruited both a string section and, for the first time on disc, other musicians, he’s winking at the big time. Whether the big time chooses to wink back remains to be seen. His accent-free voice is sweet, his melodies are rich and gentle, and without slipping into sentimentality, his tone either mysterious ("I came by to jingle in your armoury," he chuckles on "Velvet Son") or tearfully lovelorn (the romantic "Snow White"). It’s a crowded market, but he could just squeeze through.

Uncut | Major debut for sensitive German troubadour [3/5]

Comparing Hecker to Chris Martin may be something of a backhanded compliment, but it’s an indication of the 29-year-old’s potential reach, rather than an indictment of aesthetic weediness. That said, "I’ll Be a Virgin, I’ll Be a Mountain" is a hushed introspective affair, its sweetly mournful melodies augmented by tasteful string arrangements and carrying somewhat poetically strained lyrics ("Wilted Flower" distinguishes itself on that count). Toward the album’s close, a dreary sameness sets in; simpler songs like the folky "Messed-up Girl" are Hecker’s most effective

Rock Sound

Seriously, what the flying fudge does that title mean? It’s the sort of nonsensical ambiguity you’d expect from Oasis, or even worse Keane, not an artist being touted as some sort of Antony (of the Johnsons fame) to warm listener cockles during this year’s wintry end. German Hecker’s first album for V2, "I’ll Be a Virgin, I’ll Be a Mountain" is almost too sugary for its own good – the opening few songs, while mercifully brief, are candy-coated affairs of near-Bluntness (although Hecker can at least sing in tune). Things pick up though with the arrival of the sparseness of "Wilted Flower", an effort as delicate as its title implies, and the album ends on a relative high with "Grey", a triumphant-sounding expression of self-discovery.

The Sun [4/5]

Think of German popular music and I bet you conjure up thoughts of Kraftwerk’s robotic beats or Nena’s 99 Red Balloons, not sensitive singers like Maximilian.

His soft, soothing falsetto vocals wash over you, his songs ebbing and flowing without a rough edge in sight. The offbeat lyrics suggest an original, perceptive writer. Even by his standards, the album’s a bit of a slow starter with "Snow White" and "No More Lies To Reach You" barely rising above first gear.

But the quite lovely "Your Stammering Kisses" is blessed with Hammond organ that recalls Al Kooper’s contributions to Bob Dylan’s mid-Sixties heyday and the folksy "Messed-up Girl" is redolent of Bob in his early acoustic guitar-wielding troubadour days.

Already big in Germany, don’t bet against one Hecker of a talent making it over here.

Times Knowledge [3/5]

In the catalogue of rock prejudices "German singer-songwriter" ranks along "Italian indie" and "Spanish power trio". But the Bavarian Maximilian Hecker is an exception to the rule and lurking behind the rather portentous title of this album is a thing of some beauty.

Singing in English but sounding, if anything, Irish, Hecker crafts gentle, sensitive songs. The opening "Snow White" is a beautifully still lullaby that reflects a naïve worldview that some will find grating. Indeed, the title of "Silly Lily, Funny Bunny" may prompt to reach some for the axe but his innocence sounds unforced. Elsewhere, "Your Stammering Kisses" floats along on soulful organ, while "Velvet Son" switches into more mature sounding 1970s singer-songwriter territory to good effect.

Independent Information [3/5]

Is this the soppiest album of the year? The 29-year-old Berline balladeer sounds hysterically lovelorn here. But it’s also a quite lovely album, with its soft horns and terminally plaintive vocals draped over Sigur Rós-ish soundscapes. Come and have a go if you think you’re sad enough.

The Independent [4/5]

"My storehouse eyes, my Arabian bells / My warehouse legs, my Arabian chimes / Should I leave them by your gun?" It takes some talent to make a Dylan song even more cryptically impervious to meaning than it already was, but with this transposition of "Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands" in "Velvet Son", the German singer-songwriter Maximilian Hecker has managed just that. Its brazen cheek also indicates the scope of his ambitions, which are big enough to match his talent. This fourth album – the title, he claims, reflects his dual longings for purity and eternity, some ambition in itself – presents him as a sensitive type whose gentleness hides sharp claws, with lovers characterised variously as a "vacous bird", a "wilted flower" whose bloom no longer attracts him, and a "messed-up girl" to be confronted over her infidelity. The settings are blends of guitar, piano and organ with tints of strings, woodwind and synth pads; the voice, perpetually on the cusp of breathy fragility and yearning falsetto, suggests a spirit hovering somewhere between Nick Drake, both Buckleys and José Gonzalez.

Guardian Unlimited [4/5]

His esoteric charm has made him a star back home in Germany and now Maximilian Hecker is hoping to seduce those finger-twiddling Coldplay fans beyond the Black Forest. The melodies, draped in piano, French horn and strings, tick all the right boxes and Hecker's let his breathy whisper fall to a world-weary sigh for a more contemporary sound. His voice caresses the words of "Snow White" and floats through the whimsy of "Silly Lily, Funny Bunny", but for Hecker, love is bound up with a masochistic optimism. "You’re so nasty, but so beautiful," he sings in "Your Stammering Kisses", his devotion to a cheating lover in "Messed-Up Girl" is almost unbearable. Under his harmonies, "Wilted Flower" blooms, the scorn he pours over an ex-love is a rare moment where his halo slips. But the songs are too samey, the mood too sleepy to make Hecker more than a secret pleasure.

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