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Cultural Year Zero, maybe.
on 19 September 2010
A lot of the rock music that came out of West Germany in the decade 1965-75 was entirely independent of developments in the form that were happening elsewhere. There were a number of possible reasons for this, but the end result remains that rock has rarely sounded so rebellious, so free of precedents. Not for the likes of Can, early Tangerine Dream, early Kraftwerk, both Amon Duuls the preliminaries to elevation to the rock aristocracy, oh no. These boys and girls were seemingly intent on rebellion, and they made music accordingly.
In lesser hands the double album, which is what TM was in its original incarnation, would have been an excuse for all sorts of self-indulgent toss, but Can came from another place, perhaps another planet.
Listen to `Oh Yeah' and wonder what the hell they were thinking of. The band's drummer Jaki Liebezeit was originally a jazz drummer -prior to joining Can he'd worked with trumpeter Manfred Schoof- but here he plays like a glorified metronome behind `singer' Damo Suzuki's unintelligible babble while keyboard player Irmin Schmidt provides the sonic brooding only for the whole thing to break out on what in effect is no more than a one (bent) note guitar solo (okay so Slim Harpo's `I'm A King Bee' also features a one (straight) note solo but this is probably the only time when a reference to the blues is pertinent when it comes to Can)
Mind you, the locked-in groove of `Halleluwah' (wasn't this called `Hallewah' on that double album?) is as close as Can ever get to being a `beat combo' prior to a bit of sonic swelling the like of which a lot of the hippies wouldn't have countenanced, but then Can's Anglo-American counterparts were coming out of a far less blighted immediate past.
Still the fact remains that TM sounds like nothing on earth even after all these years, perhaps not even some other Can album. For that reason alone it retains its allure, but it also has in its favour the fact that it embodies what rock music can be when people put their minds to it. The fact that so few do these days is an insight into how times change.