Can über Alles
Kraut-Rock Geniuses Revisited
THE HIPSTERS, Kraut-rock acolytes, and pretentious journos are right: Can are godhead. These remastered reissues of the Germans' first four full-lengths (sounding vastly better than the last batch of reissues) will nicely acquaint you with their immortal legacy.
"Father Cannot Yell" (off 1969's Monster Movie) is the most startlingly auspicious beginning to any band's recording career. Michael Karoli's guitar and Irmin Schmidt's organ oscillate and solarize the upper registers while bassist Holger Czukay and drummer Jaki Liebezeit turn the rhythm into a dangerously careening locomotive. African-American expat Malcolm Mooney sings as if his brain's on fire. The song's more exhilarating and frightening than anything the world's finest roller-coaster engineers have devised. "You Doo Right" is 20 minutes of mountain-moving rhythmic tumult and melodic bliss.
Soundtracks, a stopgap collection from 1970, compiles Can's work for obscure films. It contains the supreme driving/fucking song, "Mother Sky," arguably the most hypnotic and adrenalized music ever conceived. For this and the starkly ominous funk of "Soul Desert," you can't live without Soundtracks.
Tago Mago (1971) is where Can get all tribal and Stockhausen on our asses. The opening triptych of chunky, galvanic funk-rock ("Paperhouse," "Mushroom," and "Oh Yeah") is almost structured enough for the era's AOR radio format. They are mere prelude for "Halleluwah" and "Aumgn," twin towers of mantric groove and spontaneous creative combustion, respectively.
By contrast, Ege Bamyasi (1972) is Can's most accessible (save for "Soup") and sample-worthy album. It's also the best intro for novices and hiphop producers. Liebezeit is demonically funky and precise throughout and the entire group have disciplined themselves into forging coiled miracles of mesmerizing Miles-like jazz rock and radiant space funk.
Schmidt noted that Can were like a "mighty, pulsing organism." Understatement! Truly, they are the closest thing to sorcerers rock has ever produced.