Danny Taylor (percussion)
Simeon (Simeon - explanation later!)
A Rough Guide To Musical Elitism Throughout The Ages.
Kid #1 - "You heard Revolver yet?"
Yeah, we recognize this kid. He's the one who likes all the stuff that's just on the edge of mainstream. He can claim to know more than most people his age, but he's liable to get torn apart if placed in a room with music lovers, simply because he hasn't taken the time to discover new things that the others have. Or maybe they'd be nice and just suggest some new things, which is really just a more subtle way of flaunting their superior knowledge. He's the guy you'd see these days in an A Perfect Circle t-shirt.
Kid #2 - "Yeah. I like where they're headed. You heard that Velvet Underground album yet?"
And countered. This is the guy who knows more than a lot of people do, and is considered an authority of sorts in his social circle. He'd command total respect were it not for Kid #3.
Kid #3 - "Meh. If you're talking experimentation, Silver Apples destroy both of them."
Neither Kid #1 or Kid #2 know who Silver Apples are. In fact, they frequently joke that Kid #3 makes up bands on the spot just for the sake of looking obscure and obtuse. He's the kid that in the future will namedrop Mindflayer and Swans for no particular reason. But, as irritating as it is, the little fuc
ker's generally right, as he is here. For experimentation, not even The Beatles and The Velvets could touch Silver Apples in the 60s. This album may not be as good as either Revolver or The Velvet Underground & Nico, and it's certainly nowhere near as famous, but just like those two, it blazed a trail that can be traced right through to today.
And now, a tangent to demonstrate that. Now, I'm a massive Kraftwerk fan - in fact, they're my favourite band ever. But just this once, I'm going to dismantle their legacy. Fun times.
Sure, it's journalistic practice to discuss Kraftwerk as the Gods of electronic music, refer to Autobahn as a critical turning point for popular music, and such. While that's true, it's not the whole story. Because Kraftwerk were not the massively original messiahs they're sometimes painted as. In fact, if you were in a harsh mood, you might even call them thieves, because almost all the core elements of their sound can be found right here, a full 6 years early.
Just look at "Oscillations", a song that STILL sounds futuristic. 'Oscillations, oscillations, electronic invocations of sound'. Tell me that lyric could not have been lifted directly from Radio-Activity, or even The Man-Machine. All this over a series of distant beeps, bubbling electronics, space-age computerized melodies, backed by a driving, vaguely syncopated drum beat and a funky bassline. Hell, they were so far ahead of their time, they created those electronic sounds by building their own instrument (the Simeon, named after one of the band members), which consisted of several oscillators and had to be operated using not just Simeon's hand, but his elbows, knees, and feet too. They say insanity and genius run parallel....
Perhaps by virtue of the release date, it does sound psychedelic, and you could draw links between this and The Kinks or The Zombies if you really wanted. But really, the only things connecting Silver Apples to the music that surrounded them were the vocals (oddly Jim Morrison-esque at times, but in a good way) and a few of the lyrics (those on "Lovefingers", for instance). Sonically, Silver Apples were WAY out there. The only places you could trace this music to were the avant-garde composers in the vein of Karlheinz Stockhausen and Morton Subotnick (their name was actually thought to be a reference to Subotnik's Silver Apples Of The Moon, also released in 1968, although it's really a line from a poem), and the esoteric end of jazz (Sun Ra especially). The only rock band who'd done anything near to this before were The Beatles, on the previous year's Tomorrow Never Knows.
Incidentally, this ranks as one of the most sampled albums of all time. Now that I'm beginning to have this album committed to memory, I'm spotting some of those samples on records I've had for years. Not just that, but some odd similarities, too - the tuned drums on "Dancing Gods" bear a suspicious resemblance to some of the drumming on Prince's "If I Was Your Girlfriend", though that might be my imagination working overtime. Aside from samples, the ideas here have filtered through to the most unlikely of places - Devo, David Bowie, Brian Eno, Stereolab, and even The Cars (!) have all tipped their hat to these guys.
While it may have taken Kraftwerk to take the innovations here, clean them up, and really set the genre rolling, the importance of Silver Apples cannot be overlooked. To be honest, Contact, the follow-up to this, is the better album, being sonically the same but with slightly better songs. But I'll be direct - electronic music owes its very existence to this, just as much as Autobahn.
Within The Genre - 4/5
Outside The Genre - 4/5
Recommended Downloads -
The second best Silver Apples song ever (#1 is Contact's A Pox On You), Oscillations sums up why they're so good succinctly and clearly. There's an awful lot going on in this song, but it's still catchy as hell.
Featuring samples of radio broadcasts from classical and news stations, and sometimes performed live by tuning a radio to various stations (Radiohead would steal this idea when they toured OK Computer and Kid A). The lyrics, too, deal with radios, though that's not immediately apparent - the hook repeats the phrase 'as plain as its own reflection*'. The bass oscillator drives the song throughout. *Note - I may be WAY off here.
This is probably the best showcase for the unique, brilliant drumming of Danny Taylor. He would often tune his drums to allow him to play chords with the Simeon, which created the effect of timpani. Aside from his performance, this song features a fairground feel that was almost certainly intentional (Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite is a possible influence here). And, while the entire album is best described with words like 'hypnotic' and 'ghostly', here they apply more than ever.
Silver Apples - Contact
Kraftwerk - Radio-Activity
Laika - Silver Apples Of The Moon