Sunday, April 25, 2010

Can - The Classic Years

Can is the most under-rated band of all-time.

Probably for several reasons; one (the biggest) was that they weren't American (or even British), so they didn't have the luxury of over-exposure (they called Cologne, Germany their home-base). Had they been an American (or British) band, they'd have been as big as The Grateful Dead or Pink Floyd; as improvisers they were just as talented, and as far as locking into a groove; they were un-matched (stickman Jaki Leibezeit was like a human drum machine). They could be as funky as George Clinton's bands or as free as Sun Ra's Arkestra.

Before you shoot flames at me for not acknowledging original lead singer Malcolm Mooney's contributions (ironically he is from the United States), I'm choosing to focus on their three best albums, the ones with Japanese-born Damo Suzuki as their lead singer. He was a street po
et that basically scat-sang, usually an unintelligible mix of English, Japanese and screaming.

Another reason they were so under-rated; they were so ahead of their time. Light years ahead. Just like their influences, The Velvet Underground, Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention, electronic music pioneer Karlheinz Stockhausen; they were more or less misunderstood, another fact that hinders their recognition because again (god-dammit!) even those bands aren't as appreciated as they should be.

In terms of who they influenced, let's start with the entire Krautrock scene; Brian Eno's forays into ambient dream-scapes; all those post-punk bands (especially Mark E. Smith, penning the homage I Am Damo Suzuki on The Fall's This Nation's Saving Grace), P.I.L. (who collaborated with bassist Jah Wobble in the '80s), even Joy Division and Siouxsie Sioux have named Can as a primary influence. Other groundbreaking artists that kneel at the altar: Radiohead, David Bowie and Talking Heads.

If any of the aforementioned artists are on your list of favorites, and you've s
till never listened to Can, skip the rest of the reading and start downloading these records!

Here's some neatly arranged bullet points to further assert my position in this essay:
  • They were incorporating rock instrumentation into "World Music" before the term even existed, experimenting with tribal drum patterns, dub basslines and primal screaming.
  • They spent hours in the studio recording then later going back and editing said sessions into "songs", the track Yoo Doo Right from the album Monster Movie was edited down from a 24-hour jam into a 20-minute song. This was all done by hand, called micro-editing; meticulously done with razor blades and splicing tape- I can only imagine the frustration (and the time involved) to cut down 24 hours of reel-to-reel to a twenty-minute edit.
  • Bass player/engineer Holger Czukay studied under Stockhausen for three years, as well as keyboardist Irmin Schmidt- who was a well-established concert pianist/composer with the Vienna Symphony.
  • Guitarist Michael Karoli was a classically trained cellist and violinist before picking up the six-string, even playing violin on a few albums (although uncredited).
  • They more or less anticipated and influenced entire movements of music (see above).
I'm just going to say download the whole lot of these records, find them on vinyl, get the CDs, the re-issues, the remasters, download 'em here; three of the greatest albums of all-time...

Tago Mago (1971; United Artists)
96.8 MB, VBR ~ avg 174 kbps

Ege Bamyasi (1972; United Artists)
65.4 MB, ripped @ 224 kbps

Future Days (1973; United Artists)
62.4 MB, VBR ~ avg 205 kbps


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