Review Summary: A 'Krautrock' classic
The first post-war generation of German musicians gave the world a startlingly radical take on rock music. No matter how stylistically different these bands were, they all shared one aesthetic value – the desire to move forward. Among the more notable acts was Can, a band who pushed psychedelic music to new frontiers by twisting elements of world music into a menacing frenzy. Neu! who specialised in concise minimalism, Tangerine Dream who gave the world pastoral electronic soundtracks, and Kraftwerk – the visionaries.
So what did Faust bring to the mix? Founding member Hans Joachim Irmler once described Faust as being ‘musical dada’ which is probably the best way to put their sound into words. A bizarre collage of noisy guitars, experimental percussion and snippets of jazz all created with a sense of anarchic fun. By 1973 they had developed a small but devoted following, leading to the release of ‘Faust IV’ the band’s most accessible record.
It begins with the 11 minute epic ‘Krautrock’, an intense assemblage of swirling metallic drones laid over primitive drum beats. It’s a bold opening statement and the following songs provide a balance between odd skewered pop and avant-garde experimental pieces. ‘The Sad Skinhead’ buzzes along with a jaunty restlessness, the lyrics “Going places, smashing faces, what else could we do?” seem to be a precursor to the punk movement; describing the frustrating delinquency that youth culture was resorting to. ‘Giggly Smile’ begins in a similar fashion but ascends into a majestic spiral of jazz rock which shifts in and out of styles in spectacular way.
However, not all the tracks succeed. ‘Just a Second (Starts Like That!)/Picnic on a Frozen River/Deuxieme Tab’ starts off with a promising strutting guitar but soon melts into an indulgent and rather tedious bubbling noise experiment. Thankfully, it doesn’t last too long.
The album closer ‘It’s a Bit of a Pain’ contrasts a simple acoustic melody with harsh unexpected drones. Despite the all the noisiness and dissonance it is a strangely captivating final track, quite beautiful in its execution. However, the real beauty of this album lies in the song ‘Jennifer’, a hazy, mysterious number which contains only a few lyrics. The track floats along with graceful elegance, the hushed lines “Jennifer you red hair’s burning, yellow jokes come out of your mind” add a surreal childlike twist to the bizarre ballad.
‘Faust IV’ is a classic of its era. Like a lot of German albums of the decade it is almost criminally underrated but remains a must have for fans of experimental rock music. Still touring and recording today Faust have forged a unique musical path. This record offers a glimpse into their sound at its most accessible stage, managing to be both uncompromising and catchy.