Can are of the most criminally overlooked bands of the last 40 years. Their style and approach to music has influenced everyone from Primal Scream, Stereolab, the Mars Volta to Clinic and Queens of The Stone Age. Seen by many as their masterpiece, Tago Mago
is an album truly ahead of it's time in both instrumentation, studio work and atmosphere. This has only 7 songs, but it was a double album when first released.
Subtle keyboards and careful guitars open this album up. Great example of Karoli's skill. It seems like a pretty straight forward song until around 1.50, when hypnotic drums enter with a bang and carefully spun guitars start to draw you in. One of the best track one's I've ever heard. There are so many hidden elements to this song it's hard describe. Multi layered and very dense. It eventually ends up in an all out jam between the players. It's repetitive like most of the album, but every repetition seems strangely fresh. Suzuki's vocals are not dominating, but are extremely effective. A great song and a brilliant opener. 5/5.
"Well, I saw mushroom head, I was born and I was dead" - these lyrics really explain it all. They mean nothing, but at the same time they mean everything. Mushroom
is the albums shortest track at 4.08. Jaki's drums own this song, they are so dominant and like the majority of this record - hypnotic. Damo Suzuki's often warbled vocals are another linchpin of this cut. he yells, he croons, he whispers, he does it all. Another great song. 4.8/5
3. Oh Yeah
Starting out with the sound of rain and thunder, this song is a real highlight. Again those groovey, hypnotic drums are in your face. The odd thing about this one is Suzuki's backwards taped vocals in the 1st verse. This song is layered with effects and is very, very atmospheric. The best way to listen to this is through headphones, it's a real experience. What amazes me about Jaki Liebezeit is his ability to stay on basically the same note for minutes and minutes and still making it sound great and fresh. When Damo sings in english it's still hard to understand but it sounds so great. The guitarring on Oh Yeah
is some of the best on the album. The 3rd verse is sung in Japanese but it's actually quite easy to sing along to after a few listens. The rhythm section really flex their muscle on this one 5/5
The longest, and definately the funkiest song on the album is Halleluwah
. If you get a chance to read the lyrics do it, they are a real trip. This song is a real marathon listen, but it's worth it, 18 and a half minutes of pure musical ecstacy. In the right frame of mind this song is such an experience. Don't let the plodding, repetitive drums put you off - there is definately a lot more to this song. Guitars are so under-utalized these days, Can knew how to use guitars. This song breaks up into a loungey jazz number for a little while (at about 4.40) and then it's back to the main sound. There are some very strange effects added into this one. Great use of synths, very eerie at times too. I think Halleluwah
is the best example of Can working as a collective. Each member plays their part perfectly, and everything fits to a T. This song is very funky, and very "cool" sounding - it word work well in a seedy porn film. The drums just never stop. Holger's bass is the glue that holds this one together, so soulful. An excellent song, and the best example of the "Can collective" ethos. 5/5
Thought The Mars Volta just came up with all their strange sounds, effects and warpings by themselves" Well you're wrong, they listened to Aumgn
900 times then decided to make an album about it ( and threw in some Led Zeppelin and Fugazi for good measure). This is probably the most experimental track on the album and it ventures pretty far out into the spacey avant-world. It sounds like mice playing broken violins on top of a big, angry, low voiced giant. This is a song very ahead of it's time. Up until about 12 minutes into the song, there is basically a total lack of drums which is very different for Can. This song gives off a kinda primitive, sparse Dub feel. There isn't any real "music" on this song, but it's somehow tied together and is actually a good listen. An interesting song. 4.5/5
6. Peking O.
A very sparse and eerie sounding song. Damo half moans, half yells "driving my way, driving my way... back to yesterday" over and over and then starts to scream "ah" for a little while. At around 2.40, what sounds like an early drum machine comes in with off-keyboards and queer synths over-lapping. There are some very urgent sounding keys in this one, it's quite jazzy at times. The drum machine becomes more prevolent with some toy mahine gun like drums coming in. Ever heard the song Chelsey's Little Secret
by Pavement" Ever heard the end of it and thought "this dude is crazy" Well malkmus isn't crazy, he was just imitatiing Damo Suzuki's rambles on Peking O
. His strange vocals actually scared me when I first heard this song. Very atmospheric, and probably the darkest song of the album. It's in the same vein as Aumgn
in that it transcends traditional song structures and ventures of into unchartered avant-space rock territory. 4.6/5
7. Bring Me Coffee of Tea
A slow and tranquil song. Unlike the last two songs it's much more structured and focussed, but not unlike them it pushes more musical boundaires. This song has a slight blues feel to it which is refreshing. There is acoustic guitar played for the first time on the album and it works well. Jaki's hypnotic drums have returned but they seem very tribal and spooky now. It's a great climax to the album, and a great way to finish. 4.5/5.
This album changed the way I looked at music... seriously. It really shows how a studio can be used effectively, and that you don't need to be a virtuoso to play excellent music. I believe any person who considers themselves a fan of music and has an open mind should own this album. A true essential.