Agony Shorthand

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

I'm not sure if this is the best of CAN's many fine LPs (I'd go with "Soundtracks" or "Tago Mago"), but I'm pretty solid on 1972's "Ege Bamyasi" being the most consistent. Aside from about 5 minutes of pointless wankitude at the back half of "Soup", the record's a terrific mix of propulsive, percussion-heavy Krautrock, lightly experimental noise and (most surprisingly) a sort of proto-disco that was at least two years ahead of its time. The first track is a real understated, quiet rhythm monster called "Pinch", all 9:31 of it. Vocalist Damo Suzuki mutters in some alien non-German/English/Japanese tongue over super-frantic percussive dancefloor stomp. Except dancing to it is almost completely out of the question, as the track is just a bit off-time and arranged so loosely & randomly that most coke-sniffing rump-shakers would likely be back in the bathroom waiting for the Gloria Gaynor or Thelma Houston to spin. 180 degrees and one track later is "Sing Swan Song", a gently unfolding ballad of sorts, with more muttering and the faintest hint of an unhinged, screeching guitar in the background. Hell, they're all great, even the overtly disco "I'm So Green" that ended up as a 45. I mean, was anyone making music even remotely like this anywhere else in 1972? Maybe ROXY MUSIC, but they were just getting off the ground and were more of a straight-up rock band to boot -- CAN already had 4 great, weirdly hypnotic records under their collective belt. One guy called this record a "definitive statement on merging jazz ideology with the surging menace of rock & roll" and compared it favorably to MILES DAVIS' "On The Corner". I cannot concur, having not heard the Miles record, but it's hard to argue that there's not a real experimental jazz current running through this, despite the fact that it hangs on sturdy, rock and roll-based shoulders. I'll argue that this is the CAN to get if you can get just one, but if you go without any of their pre-1973 material you're missing some of the most creative and aurally pleasing rock music of our time. Don't let it happen to you!