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PETER SCHILLING (Buy CDs by this artist)
Error in the System (Elektra) 1983
Major Tom (Coming Home) EP (Elektra) 1983
Things to Come (Elektra) 1985
The Different Story (World of Lust and Crime) (Elektra) 1989

Back when German music was affectionately referred to as "krautrock," it seemed as if spacey progressive experimentalism was the only kind of music Teutonic youth could play. Since that era, the nation's stylistic scope has widened considerably and been exported to global popularity as well. So there's something nostalgic and heartwarming about the sci-fidom of Peter Schilling's left-field hit single, "Major Tom (Coming Home)," which essentially copies the story of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" into a modern electro-pop setting. The 12-inch offers the single four ways: English, German, instrumental and an eight-minute John Luongo remix. The song sounds best auf deutsch.

Error in the System contains "Major Tom (Coming Home)" sung in English, a plodding instrumental called "Major Tom Part II" and a German version of "Silent Night, Holy Night" (with new lyrics), as well as fake reggae and a bunch of needless "Major Tom" soundalikes. Throughout, Schilling's almost accentless multi-tracked vocals are blandly sweet, and the metronome-powered electro-bubblegum is pleasant if shallow. A full album of this synthetic weightlessness is more than enough; briefer doses aren't at all painful.

Things to Come proves the narrow limits of Schilling's appeal. At best, a few songs echo his hit; otherwise, it's a tedious and unoriginal bore. If that much repetition wasn't enough, eight tracks from Error in the System and Things to Come were later recombined (with the addition of one new song) to form The Different Story.

[Ira Robbins]