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The White Night test (Please hit Farage with it after reading).
on 6 September 2014
I have been a fan since encountering Can's 'Ege Bamyasi' [Means "Aegean Okra" no less] circa 1972, its cover photo of Okra, as Stubbs cleverly notices, is a pointer to an affinity with Warhol's Factory. I just thought it was funny, not an aesthetic symbol. It certainly stunned me with its psychedelic rhythms, unique singing and all round difference. I love what I have always called 'Krautrock', something I am surprised to find I never considered might be seen as offensive. I learned early that the pernicious notion of the Germans as without humour, of theirs as a land of mindless obedience was just plain ignorant. Stubbs's comprehensive, searching and fascinating account had me, a lover of Amon Duul 2, Faust and Can especially, revelling in the love of Germany and its war-inflected music starkly different from Anglo-American rock. And the war reference is interesting, explaining the context of the heterodox, invariably communalist nature of these combos; the Fuehrer principle was detested by them all. That he argues for using the controversial term for this music despite it being reviled by the groups shows, curiously, how much he cares and is a statement of intent of great integrity and intelligence. This is a bold, ambitious cultural history of what has been a surprisingly pervasive influence on much pop music. He interviews many of the musicians, an interesting lot and full of compelling ideas; the evocations of the music had me getting the CDs out to luxuriate in the strange beauty of a sub-genre that had the pop and the avant garde intersect: the lack of prominence of the lead singer, the ambient, trance-like tunes, the atonality, the insistent, driving 'motorik' percussion eschewing the Dreaded Drum Solo, 'found sound'/music concrete, the frequent quirkiness. I hadn't thought - silly me - of the irruption of this style in my beloved Roxy Music and I find much of the music I love is influenced by the Velvet Underground on the one (American) hand and these German meisters on the other. Yes there are a very few clotted phrases and clichés herein, but in a book of this brick-like size I think that the only honourable response is a deep bow of gratitude. An essential account for all interested in this least commercial of musiks. Its only important weakness is the occasional sideswipe at Anglo-American 'prog' rock, finding fault even with 'Dark Side of the Moon' and underrating the early Floyd - plainly a huge influence on more than just Amon Duul 2; this belittling is too reflexive, uncharacteristically lazy thinking.
It gave me a sleepless night, THE test of a good read: I had to FORCE myself to put the book down at 5 a m last night, so taken was I with it.
P.S. IT kept me awake on two subsequent nights also. It therefore passes the test definitively, for me at least. And R.I.P. Michael Karoli, Can's ace axeman, much underrated.