Never Heard of 'Em: Can
Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.
Can! What? Named after a verb meaning "know how to" or "be able to" and/or a noun meaning "a usually cylindrical receptacle,"* Can are what is known as "krautrock," a sort-of genre that's just a name for late-'60s German rock. The first important thing about Can, if you are a music dummy, is that people think they're important. For instance, at least half the bands I've written about for this column famously love Can (Siouxsie and the Banshees, Suicide, PiL, Brian Eno).
Also, let's talk about this album cover. IT IS SO GREAT! The typeface, the curlicue brains, the speech bubble, the big orange head... amazing.
The album begins with little wormy guitar tickles, then a psychedelic waowmp intro. I can't tell if/when they are speaking English. But I do think that drums are the centerpiece of krautrock. In fact, there is an 18-minute song on this album that is basically just drums. There's some rock piano, of which I heartily approve. Also, at some point, they sing about a snowman. I swear.
The drum song, "Halleluhwah," goes on forever. It's amazing. Over the drums, they torture a crow, then make fun of a violin, then a tiger arrives for just a second. The song feels like a prank—there have to be jokes you could play with it. "Here, I made you this mix CD!" (Entire track list: "1. Halleluhwah – Can.")
The early part of the next track, "Aumgn," seems to have been created by dissecting a clock and then playing a banjo with clock guts. It would make a good accompaniment to a trippy time-travel sequence. Also, they might be chanting.
Hoo-boy, so much chanting! But more like creepy back-of-your-throat noises, like you'd make if you were doing a monster impression to scare your little brother. This should be used as a haunted-house soundtrack! Inconveniently for me, but excellent for haunted houses, this song is also a hundred minutes long (17:33).
GARBAGE NOISE!!! Aaaand barking dog break! And then they do Stomp, that percussion-based theater piece from the '90s where they play garbage cans.
I wondered how much of their music was planned or practiced ("Okay, hit that bucket with your drumstick, great, now jingle bells! Go!"), because it sounds totally improvised. Turns out: Can are famous for "spontaneous composition." Called it!
I give this a "spontaneous music criticism" out of 10.
*Side note/hot tip: Usually, when a writer opens with a dictionary definition, it is code for "I am fucked for ideas and this was due yesterday." But really, what kind of name is this, you awesome weirdos? It is just impossibly simplistic and silly. I am so amused. Also, this was due yesterday.