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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 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.
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on 3 November 2014
Excellent chapters on Kraftwerk, Neu! and 'The Berlin School' form the backbone of this fine book, which is written with plenty of style and critical acumen. There are few flies in the ointment, though: the 'Prologue' is a bit long-winded and when I were a lad we got marked down for repetition; the Faust stuff has been around the block a few too many times; and the section on 'Fellow Travellers' seems like an afterthought and is oddly placed in the middle. Here, Kraan and Nektar - marginal Krautrockers at best - are set up as straw men and given a good kicking. If there's a point to this it's lost on me. Throughout the book, as well, Stubbs seems to take the view that advocacy of one genre of music requires that one slag off others. Victims here are principally blues-based rock and (surprise, surprise) prog. Stubbs is too intelligent a writer and too catholic in his own tastes to believe that prog is merely quasi-Romantic noodling (Magma? Van Der Graaf? 70's King Crimson? Eskaton? Dün?), but if one didn't know otherwise one would come away thinking as much. Surely, music journalism ought to be about widening the tastes of the reader - à la the late Ian MacDonald - rather than limiting them? (If you want to know how it ought to be done, check out MacDonald's passionate yet unsparingly analytical appraisal of Laura Nyro in 'The People's Music'.) All that said, I'm glad the book's around. I got to the end of it and enjoyed it, though I'm not a punk or a post-punk.
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on 30 August 2014
Stubbs' book is a passionate and personal exploration of Krautrock, giving a chapter on each of the main players from that period (Amon Duul, Can, Kraftwerk, Neu! etc). Not only does this book provide useful context for understanding the development and influence of Krautrock, but it has also provided real incentive to re-listen to these albums in a new light.
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on 4 January 2015
I'd always wanted and been waiting for someone to write a thoughtful, analytical account of Krautrock as a companion to Julian Cope's admittedly highly-entertaining but determinedly non-cerebral Krautrocksampler.

This then is mostly that book. However it does have its failings. There is a small number of very, very basic errors. For example, Michael Karoli is described as Swiss; there is a reference to the 'title track' on Ege Bamyasi; and there's a paragraph in the Amon Duul section about Renate Knaup's signing on Dance of the Lemmings (she wasn't on that album except as guest on one short track).

In the section on Popol Vuh, I had hoped to read more about the (to me) essential German-ness of their music and also to read more about Daniel Fichelscher whose contribution to PV has always seemed to me to not get the credit it deserves. You'd think that PV were really just Florian Fricke when they were most definitely composed of two equal contributors.

It also seems quixotic to give Agitation Free and Guru Guru such little space (AF get only two mentions) when in the case of the latter when they were in some respects a quintessential Krautrock band what with the frequent guitar freak-outs, intense but untutored drumming, lots of heavy reverb, heavily effected vocals and so on.

I also experienced a fair amount of deja vu as there's a considerable amount of quotation from previous interviews e.g. in the Wire, the Quietus etc.

The book is really good on the cultural backdrop and also on the enduring legacy of Krautrock. However, I was surprised not to see more if anything at all about the influence of Krautrock in Japan. I don't recall any mention for example of Acid Mothers Temple and their ilk. I would also have liked to see a chapter on the later seem of music,mostly electronica, coming out of Germany e.g. To Rococo Rot, Kreidler, Mouse on Mars and so on.

And lastly, I'd like to see a section on suggested listening. For the second edition maybe?
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VINE VOICEon 31 October 2014
A thoughtful, comprehensive overview of the genre, comprising an overview of the postwar political and social conditions that gave rise to the bands, chapters on all the main players (quite rightly discarding the German prog rock acts that have often been lumped in with the scene) and a coda on the 80s bands who carried the torch, such as Einsturzende Neubaten.

However, it's far from being just a hagiographic history. Mr. Stubbs points out that that most of the bands went out so far into the realms of experimentation that there was nowhere else to go, and those that did continue to make music perhaps shouldn't have. I was reminded of that scene in the BBC Krautrock documentary a few years back, which showed the now septegenarian Faust still gamely banging away on an old tractor with a drainpipe in a way inescapably reminiscent of Vic and Bob's Mulligan And O'Hare. He also points out that the development of affordable and functional synthesisers in some ways had a negative effect on the development of the music, with many of its early experimenters spending the balance of their careers in keyboard noodling. There are lots of interesting ideas like that in here, and it's a must if you have any interest in the genre.

Plus, of course, the author's wonderful descriptions of the albums will have comparative neophytes like myself putting in some pretty hefty Amazon orders over the next few weeks. Excellent.
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on 21 March 2015
A brilliant book, less judgmental in a positive and negative way than Julian Cope's great diatribe especially with regards to the coolness of the British media created Krautrock scene. Probably factually better. It's everything you could need to know in your hunt for great German 70's music. The prose flows and it is nice to dip in and out of when you have read it to remind yourself of facts and what CDs to buy ........
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on 6 December 2014
well frankly really quite boring... no info there that you would not have already known if you had paid attention to the press and then the internet in the last 30 years
Mr Stubbs writes a wicked album review and there are a few in here and brilliant there but to my mind he does not write a wicked biography;
it is mostly functional and merely factual at best; the section on Can was duller than dishwater

I would still read it as it is about Krautrock but we need a better book in the English language ... maybe find a pdf of Krautrocksampler as it is no longer in print ... that is more lively a piece of writing if not as all-encompassing
I was disappointed as David Stubbs clearly researched long and hard but reined in his creative writing skills maybe to fit in with bland Faber .... the book cover says sociology manual NOT KRAUTROCK
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on 11 November 2014
Readers who think they know everything about Krautrock will be enthralled by David Stubbs' book, which provides a fresh insight into the music coming out of Germany in the 1970s. And it's a perfect starting place for beginners too - it's unlikely that anyone will approach the subject again in such a comprehensive way. In-depth research and illuminating new interviews with the key musicians make this an absolute must-read. Superb!
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on 28 September 2014
Excellent book. Well written, humourous and comprehensive account of this fascinating music. I bought Can's 'Lost Tapes' soon after finishing the book, and will be adding some Cluster/Kluster/Harmonia/Neu! soon.
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on 14 August 2015
The subtitle says it all: krautrock and the building of modern Germany. This book describes with great love and dedication the search for German cultural Eigenheit in music and art in general, from the end of the 1960s onwards. The long prologue provides an excellent historical context, thus unleashing krautrock as a cultural phenomenon of great significance, rather than as a music oddity. Great achievement.
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