Review Summary: One thing's fer sure: If you intend to get into Krautrock and/or dig up the roots of modern electronica, there's no way 'round Neu! But while it's a good listen this one sure isn't their best, its main issues being lack of consistency and structure.2 of 2 thought this review was well written
Neu! were one of the more important German Krautrock bands of the 70's (Krautrock meaning experimental 70's rock from Germany) and were, despite the fact that they didn't actually use a lot of synthesizers, an important influence modern electronic dance music. They were a duo comprised of drummer/multi-instrumentalist Klaus Dinger and guitarist Michael Rother who both used to be in the kraftiest of all werks: Kraftwerk (also an influential proto-dance ensemble). Neu! lasted for 3 albums, then transformed into La Düsseldorf (who I personally haven't listened to) and then finally called it quits sometime in the 80's. This is their story, or rather that of their self-titled 1972 debut album.
Hallogallo is the template for a Neu! opener, as in the openers of their other two albums sound like a slightly modified version of this. A straight, danceable-as-hell 4/4 drumbeat (also known as "motorik") covered in beautiful guitar textures, produced with the help of several effects/tape manipulations. On top of that, it has that irrestistable, metronome-esque "click" noise in the rhythm track, which has the same effect as the "chunka-chunka" bassline in Kraftwerk's legendary Autobahn: It makes you wanna dance and drive your car at the same time. But be sure to not dance too much while driving, cos it could end up bad for you. Anyway, this track, clocking in at about 10 minutes, is so infectious, it makes you beg for more.
But you don't get more. Instead you get a track called Sonderangebot (meaning "special price" in German), which sounds an awful lot like Cluster's first album, except even less structured and way less interesting. It does have some nice metallic noises at the the end, but that's all.
Fortunately, the next song, going by the name of Weissensee (literally translates to "white lake", but I guess it's the name of some town), digs into a similar vein as Hallogallo. But it's slow and not really danceable, focusing more on Rother's guitar textures (with a great deal of wah-wah this time) than on Dinger's sexy drumbeats. It has a really neat distinctly avant pop (as opposed to avant rock) feel to it, which makes it one of my personal album favorites.
Im Glück ("in luck") is soundscapery again. Occasional "running water" sounds in the background (sounds like a creek, but is presumably Klaus Dinger's malfunctioning toilet, with his excrement still in it and him desperatly trying to flush while the vile smell slowly makes him go insane) and some guitar drones in the foreground. Some cheeping birds also. I mean, I have nothing against ambient music, but Neu!'s (pioneering?) efforts in that genre simply fail in producing any specific ambience and feel slightly boring because of that. Sure, they have some interesting sounds on there, but they don't connect to each other. The albums low point
Which is quickly followed by its high point, Negativland (did that strange cultural terrorist experimental art collective thingy name themselves after this song?). That one starts with a jackhammer, anticipating Einstürzende Neubauten in a strange way. Then we gradually get a P-Funk worthy bassline, more motorik-al drum magic, some ugly, noisy guitar playing, fast sections, slow sections, even short ambient sections. The song changes a lot, but always keeps this dense kind of noisy texture. A perfect fusion between the band's proto-dancey and proto-ambient side.
After this pile o' Kraut greatness ends abruptly after 10 minutes of fun, we get to Lieber Honig, the album's weird closer. It's on the melodious side, worse than Weissensee, but better than Im Glück. The major difference between this and the rest of the album is that there's actual "vocals", performed by Dinger, and hell, that guy has a pretty creepy voice, to say the least. He actually sounds like he's insane and his lungs are totally fucked or something. You can't really describe it. Just so much: It'll send cold shivers down your spine. The presumed toilet from Im Glück has a cameo too. Probably my theory is correct and Dinger really went insane from the smell and it corrupted his lungs. Creepy, nonetheless.
In conclusion we (or rather I) can say that this album, while this album sure is worthwhile, there's still only two really great tracks on here. I recommend getting their 2nd album (creatively titled Neu! 2). Even though it several versions of the same two tracks on side 2, you'll get a lot of danceable motorik gratification, which I think they were better at than the ambient shizzle.