Tago Mago (1971)
Paperhouse/Mushroom/Oh Yeah/Halleluwah/Aumgn/Peking O/Bring Me Coffee Or Tea
Krautrock band Can released their second album here, (a double album behemoth) and it is the one most people tend to know. It merges psychedelic, avant-garde instrumental improvisation with a vague funkiness and some slightly modern jazz grooves. Like German contemporaries Neu! they are very experimental, although not quite as electronic, tending to veer towards more of a rock feel.
The album is regarded as hugely influential on artists like Public Image Ltd, Joy Division, many other post punk groups and David Bowie’s Berlin period. It is not an easy listen, but it is certainly an intriguing one.
Paperhouse is a gritty, virtually instrumental opener, dominated by some searing psychedelic guitar from Michael Karoli along with some actually quite rhythmic drums. I don’t mind this at all, as it goes, it is far more rock than prog, so that tends to suit my taste. I feel the whole album is avant-garde rock as opposed to prog - there’s not a topographic ocean or van der graaf generator within sight or earshot. It is one of the best cuts on the album, for me.
Mushroom features some pretty incomprehensible vocals from Kenji Suzuki over some ambient noises that eventually gain a kind of rhythm. Oh Yeah, while having an atmospheric sound in places, is otherwise not very listenable. I do like the sparse but rhythmic drum sound (from Jaki Liebezeit), however, and the vocals are almost punkily whining five or so years ahead of time. There are quite a few hints of post punk in this. Indeed, John Lydon was a big fan and its influences on Public Image are clear. It was funny that punk was seen as blowing this sort of prolonged indulgence away, yet pretty soon post punk was readily acknowledging its influence. I have to admit, though, that when played on the best possible speakers it sounds better and grows on me.
Halleluwah is eighteen minutes long, and took up a whole side of the original album. Sure, it is long but is strangely hypnotic, eating its way into your system with more captivating drums and various guitar sounds, electronic soundscapes and Eastern noises swirling all over the place. The insistent drum sound reminds a lot of the one Paul Thompson would use on Roxy Music’s If There Is Something the following year and then on The Bogus Man in 1973. Strangely, also, the vocal melody at one point put me in mind of The Congos’ Fisherman, a reggae song highly unlikely to be influenced by this.
The track is most definitely the album's highlight. From here on in it all goes far too experimental for my liking.
Aumgn is another side-long affair, with a Chinese vibe to it and a far more ad hoc feel that renders it far less listenable. It is basically seventeen minutes of irritating ambient noise. I enjoyed the previous track, but no to this one. Tut mir leid. The same applies to the tape loops of Peking O.
Bring Me More Coffee And Tea is more pleasantly ambient in its mysterious, psychedelic way. Overall, though this album’s critical respect is a bit of a mystery to me. I prefer the first half of it, finding the second half nigh on unlistenable. You know, what I really go for are the albums and tracks that were subsequently influenced by this rather than the album itself - the influenced as opposed to the influencer.
As for it being one of the greatest records of all time, as I have seen it described - do me a favour.
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|Tangerine Dream||Neu!||Public Image|