I'm sure there is an album like Tago Mago lying around somewhere right now. An album that has gone completely unnoticed except by a hip few. An album that is of an entirely new and unique sound in the current age of clicheness. An album which is simplistic in its execution, but virtuoso in its ideas. Tago Mago helped further the thought process of progressive rock, it helped nuture the birth of electronic, and it experimented in the realms of drone and noise rock, and most of all it had some really fu
cking good music on it. Drawing mainly on the skills of vocalist Damo Suzuki and drummer Jaki Liebezeit, Tago Mago is a swirl of surreal satisfaction accented with a variety of genres. Funk, rock, jazz, various world music, it is all found on Tago Mago and that is where its success as an album comes from. It's aimless yet perfectly constructed combination of an eccentric blend of genres.
If somebody heard Tago Mago out of the blue, I'm sure they would be able to tell it came from the '70s. The stench of psychedelic and the hippie era is very evident through out all ninety or so minutes of it. The introduction to the album "Paperhouse" basically splices the psychedelic sound of the time right down the middle and sews the punk influence of groups like the Velvet Underground into the sound of music that is Can. In turn this creates what seems to be a torrid and aggressive trip through a spectrum of political dreamlike imagery. Further demonstrating the versatility of the band is track "Oh Yeah" which seamlessly crafts the electronic meanderings of bands like Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk with the progressive power of rock titans King Crimson and Yes. The pounding rhythm of the track provides a gorgeous backdrop for Damo's quietly sung ramblings as well as the various swells of volume provided by the guitars/keyboard duo of Irmin Schmidt and Michael Karoli. Tracks "Aumgn"and "Peking O" are certainly competitors for the '70s most bizarre album cuts. Their combination of free form vocals from Damo, sampled noise clips, free-jazz styled keyboard parts, and rhythm less drumming make them what same may call "non-musical" but in reality they are just another piece of the puzzle of Can's brilliance.
Tago Mago, is certainly superior in its ample combination of various genres as well as its technical prowess, but its production does hinder its ability to an extent. While I do understand that the band was working off of a two track recorder, some of the guitar parts seem under mixed as well as the keys which at times are even hard to pick out. The drums are probably highest in the mix which creates for an interesting sound, but I still feel that if Can had been given the right production tools this album could've been refined into a complete masterpiece, instead of just a really great album. Although I am certainly praising the album a lot for its combination of genres, I can see this also hindering some listener's enjoyment of the album. Especially the two "noise" tracks "Aumgn" and "Peking O". Can was certainly flirting with the avant garde music being thrown around during their time and thus listeners who enjoy easily digestible music will probably not enjoy Tago Mago as much as a listener who is familiar with the various realms of music.
In short Can was a breath of fresh air in the '70s and also an influential force to be reckoned with. Leaving their marks on groups ranging from Brian Eno to the Mars Volta, their recordings have certainly aged extremely well. Yet, unlike most influential bands of the past they are just as experimental as bands that exist today. Basically, Can was light years ahead of their time, and the ideas they present in Tago Mago and sequential albums are still incomprehensible even in today's eclectic and varied music scene.