CAN - ESSENTIAL CAN
After I saw Kraftwerk last week at the Museum of Modern Art I found myself wishing that I could see a similar sort of survey show for Can. This is pretty much impossible at this point - guitarist Michael Karoli died in 2001, and it’s hard to imagine that Jaki Liebezeit can still play like that at the age of 72. Unlike Kraftwerk, who restricted the human element of their music to Ralf Hütter’s vocals, Can were very much a rock band defined by the distinct character and virtuousity of its players. (In this way, their most direct contemporaries are Led Zeppelin.)
This single-disc survey of Can’s career – or most of it, there is nothing here after 1976’s Flow Motion – is pretty much my dream of what I’d want to see performed at a hypothetical retrospective performance. Several tracks, such as “Yoo Doo Right” and “Halleluwah,” were edited down for time. I don’t think I butchered anything, but I want to emphasize that if you like what you hear, you really need to get the full records and hear things play out in their proper context. If you’ve never heard Can before, this should be pretty eye-opening – they’re one of the truly great art rock bands, and are hugely influential. Like, for instance, if you’re a big fan of Animal Collective or post-Kid A Radiohead, I think you’ll find a lot to love here.
Little Star of Bethlehem / Yoo Doo Right / Mother Sky / Mushroom / Oh Yeah / Halleluwah / One More Night / Spoon / Vitamin C / Turtles Have Short Legs / Moonshake / Future Days / Dizzy Dizzy / I Want More
This is a pretty cool kernel of a song from Can’s 1979 self-titled album. Allmusic unfairly and somewhat hilariously gives the album 1.5 stars because Can changed their sound with the times—oh no!! I get a kind of a Ennio Morricone disco remix vibe from the song, not unlike Casino Music’s stellar take on Sonny and Cher from the same year. This edit shaves three minutes off the original, which is pretty smart because this song certainly does not need to be six minutes long.
Can - Tango Whiskeyman (1970)
In early 1970 Malcolm Mooney, lead singer in the German experimental band Can, returned to his native United States of America for psychiatric reasons. Now lacking a lead vocalist, the rest of the musicians did what any sensible band would do: choose a random itinerant Japanese street poet found performing outside a cafe in Munich. The first recordings the band made with new singer Kenji “Damo” Suzuki were for a number of film soundtracks. One example, “Tango Whiskeyman,” was written as the character theme song for a protagonist (The Kid) in the German spaghetti Western Deadlock. Within the year Can released a compilation album of music from those films, creatively titled Soundtracks. That album became arguably more famous in the long run than any of the films in which Can’s music appeared.