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This review is from: Neu! (Audio CD)
Neu!'s debut is considered by many to be the best Neu! album. I can't really say it is (yet) because I'm still after a copy of Neu! 2. First... a short history lesson:
In the late 60s Michael Rother was in a band called "Spirits of Sound" based in dusseldorf and as far as I can tell they didn't release a single single (ha ha ha) or album. Also in the group was Wolfgang Flur (later in Kraftwerk) and others. Meanwhile, Klaus Dinger was making a name for himself and in 1970 was vacuumed up by Kraftwerk (then the duo of Hutter and Schneider), who's previous drummer had left leaving them with an album B-Side that needed recording. This was Kraftwerk's self-titled debut (didn't sell well outside of Germany and has never been legally reissued). After the album's release, for some reason, Ralf Hutter left the group. Florian Schneider was now left with no guitarist. Local man, Michael Rother was roped in. Rother, Dinger and Schneider (all end in "er", like Hutter. Conspiracy!) worked on their next album, and can be seen playing material from it on German TVs "Beat club" show in 1970. After 6 months however, Hutter returned. The material the trio had been working on was scrapped and a new album started (Kraftwerk 2) Rother and Dinger weren't very pleased about this and Rother was leaving anyway because the band didn't need to guitarists. Dinger followed him and set up Neu!
Neu! used the same theory (and possibly some of the same tracks) as the scrapped Kraftwerk album.
Starting from the top, Hallogallo (German for Hallmark) is the opener. For some reason, everybody thinks that Hallogallo is amazing and wish it could go on for longer. I'm indifferent. Hallogallo isn't that great but it's OK. To explain its sound; the first thing you hear is this weird clucking noise, like a chicken, and although I know it is part of a drum kit I can't tell which. This is accompanied by a solid base line, da da da daa da daa da d d da, and a motorik beat. This is quite good, then the treated guitar comes in, this is the part I don't like. All it is is single chords at a time.
After Hallogallo's 10 minutes are up, Sonderengabot starts. Sonderengabot means Special Offer in German, a theme that seems to run through both this and Neu! 2 (the second track in Neu! 2 is Spitzenqualitat, meaning "Special Quality). This is perhaps the most worthless piece of music I own. I don't know how they made that sound but it didn't take a lot of effort. At the start there is a crescendo of what I can only call a treated version of the sound of symbols being rubbed together. For most of the 4 minutes there is very near silence only punctuated by almost operatic vocals (?) if that's what it is. I doubt it as it is obvious from Neu! 75 that neither are good singers.
Sonderengabot merges into the next track: Weissensee (White Sea or White Lake). Weissensee is one of only three really good tracks. The drumbeat is almost Motorik, but very slow. In the background there is an almost ambient drone accompanied by some wah-wah guitar and the drum beat which is followed by the bass. AMAZING!
After this, on the old LP you'de have turned over. You are greeted by Im Gluck (In Luck). What Im Gluck is is a version of Weissensee with all that was good stripped off of it. Gone is the drums, gone is the bass, gone is the wah-wah guitar. All you're left with is the semi-ambient backing. And it doesn't even begin like that. The theme that runs through the B-Side is water. Im Gluck starts with a wierd watery sound, like Sonderengabot I can't tell you how they made it. It eventually fades into the ebbing and flowing of the ambient backing. It is obviously modelled on the sound of waves lapping on the shore but I find it extreamly boring. Don't write off that comment as the veiw of a person who only listens to main stream pop and shouldn't have bought this cd, because I listen to Cluster, Brian Eno, Harmonia, Faust and, yes, some mainstream stuff, but I bet everyone does.
After Im Gluck fades out with the same watery sound it started with, Negativland hits you. Before Im Gluck has had a propper chance to fade, the sound of a neumatic drill (?) arrives. The first time I heard this I actually jumped out of my skin. It is designed to come as a shock after the gentle shimmering of Im Gluck. This is followed on by what I perceive as the dying groans of a walruss. Weird, yeah. Negativland finally straightens out into a weird treated guitar line, like the wind gone mad. The drums (Motorik) and the bass kick in. It sounds really good on bass booster (if your stereo has that). Negativland is by far the best track on the record. But that isn't the end of it. Half way through the bass and drums cut out and its sounds like the wind goes faster, in a mechanical way, like a turbine being turned on. It is suddenly very clear that Rother has been playing the guitar, but slowed it down. The bass and drums cone back in at a faster pace before cutting out a while later and going back to the slower version. It speeds up one last time, and sounds like it's getting very manic, then everything cuts out without warning. OH MY GOD I LOVE NEGATIVLAND!
Negativland posseses the same threatening quality as Super 16 and Hero. It's no lullaby.
Leiber Honig (Love Honey) is the last track. It is kicked off by a very naiive, plucked guitar line, like a nursery rhyme, and then the vocals. It is the only vocal track on the whole album and the vocals are aweful. I don't know whether Klaus Dinger lost his voice on the day of the recording or it was another "pop art gesture". The vocals are probably in German but I can't tell. I think a German would have trouble decifering the asthmatic croaks emmitted by Dinger.
At the end of Leiber honig, both the vocals and the guitar fade out. The watery soun from Im Gluck returns and it fades into an even more ambient ebb and flow. For some reason I quite like this. Not bad at all. The record fades slowly away and Neu! is finished.
To me the album has 3 good tracks and 3 bad. Hallogallo, Weissensee and Negativland are good; Sonderengabot, Im Gluck and Leiber Honig [at the start] are bad.
If you're into Hard Rock, buy Neu! 2 first.
If you're into Techno, buy this first.
If you're into pop, buy Neu! '75 first.
PS. The reason I gave it 4 stars is because the really good tracks balence out the bad ones.