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Amon Düül II - Wolf City CD (album) cover

WOLF CITY

Amon Düül II

 

Krautrock

3.92 | 211 ratings

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Pnoom!
4 stars In my original review of Yeti (which I have since revised), also by Amon Duul II, I spent rather a lot of that review bashing Wolf City (which I didn't even know well at all at that point), and I honestly can't think why anymore. The first time I seriously listened to this album, I absolutely fell head over heels in love with it. While it's not as good as Yeti (very little is), it's right on par with Tanz Der Lemminge and Phallus Dei (probably slightly below the former and above the latter), and that makes it absolutely essential Krautrock. It gets a rather cold reception from many Amon Duul II fans, who don't like the more structured direction they take on this album, but I find that quite ridiculous. Imagine a whole album composed of songs similar to side two of Yeti (with songs such as Archangel Thunderbird, Cerberus, Eye-Shaking King, and many more), and that's what you have here. I absolutely fawn over Krautrock, and this album is one of the biggest reasons why. This is an underappreciated gem that you would not do well to miss.

One thing a lot of fans of the earlier, more experimental incarnation of Amon Duul II fail to realize is that this simply is not the earlier, more experimental incarnation of Amon Duul II. Gone are the sidelong improvisations that made Phallus Dei, Yeti, and Tanz Der Lemminge amazing. Here, Amon Duul II is looking towards a more song-oriented format, and they prove that this can be equally as potent as their experimental works. Why? Because the band take a whole new, fun, and inventive approach to their music. They are still psychedelic, and they still sound like Amon Duul II. The vocals are still distinct. The songs still hold true to their ideals. In short, this is still classic Amon Duul II. Even the cover is as good as (if not better) their classic work. It's sad that some people don't realize that this still is Amon Duul II, but that's their loss.

What could it be that I love so much about the opening track of this album? Could it be its experimental nature? Could it be the return of Renate Knaup's unique and inimitable vocals? Could it be the left-wing lyrics she sings? Could it be Chris Karrer's delightful violin and guitar work? Could it be the proto-metal (acoustic, I might add) ferocity of the song? Could it be the frantic drumming? Could it be that delectable bass riff that enters after Knaup shouts "at sunrise?" Could it be all of these? Indeed it could, and indeed it is. Surrounded By the Stars is among the very best Amon Duul II songs. It has everything I love about Amon Duul II and then some. I do not feel the need to describe this track in any more detail than I have, for its effect on me lies beyond the power of words to describe. Simply stunning, and, as I said, one of the best Amon Duul II tracks.

The band then proceed to show they've got more than one song's worth of great ideas to share as we move on to the second song, Green Bubble Raincoated man. The vocals are high-pitched, almost shrieks at times, conveying communist/anarchist lyrics about world peace, or something like that (it's the thought that counts). The beginning is slow and calming, strolling through fields of psychedelia, but once the band lay eyes upon the prize (the green bubble raincoated man himself, perhaps?), they break out into an all-out hard rock/Krautrock mix that displays the band's biggest strength.

Jail-House Frog follows, and is a song in two parts, both masterpieces in their own right. This song is one of two on the album that challenge Surrounded By the Stars for best song on the album. The opening music is hypnotic, slowly building up to a Krautrock freak-out, only for the song to give way to part two, an ambient closing section replete with sound effects. The way the band balance the two contrasting sections is perfect, and it's hard to imagine a better song than this (unless, of course, you're looking at Amon Duul II's very best songs, of which this is one).

Wolf City (the title track) is the only other song that challenges Surrounded By the Stars. It is a strange and enchanting piece of music, comprised of insane psychedelia and sheer weirdness as the satirical lyrics go full force on top of a chorus of "wolf city." The lyrics themselves tell of how capitalist society is a "wolf city," and how people have to kill to advance, or even to survive. This, of course, implies that it would be much nicer to live in an anarchist society, or something along those lines (it IS Amon Duul II we're talking about here). Oh well, we can't help their politics (though I actually think their lyrics rank as one of the greatest assets to their music, for it makes them unique).

The only song on this album that fails to captivate me is Wie Der Winde Am Ende Einer Strasse. The opening really gets my hopes up high, but then the song fades into mellow blandness that loses my interest very quickly. I keep waiting for the song to build, but it refuses to oblige, giving it a stagnant feel. Thus, while the theme is nice, the track itself is nothing special, and the album would be better off without it. Pleasant, but not exciting.

As if to apologize, however, Amon Duul II end the album with two of its best tracks, Deutsch Nepal and Sleepwalker's Timeless Bridge. Deutsch Nepal is full of amazing bass work that simply flows through my head and never fails to amaze. On top of this are German lyrics that, apparently, satirize Nazi Germany. If you know the song Toxological Whisperings off of Tanz Der Lemminge, this song is like that (only not quite as good, simply because there's less of it to enjoy). An absolute classic.

Sleepwalker's Timeless Bridge, which you can sample on this site, seems to be a common favorite, and it's not hard to see why (even if I prefer every song on the album except Wie Der Winde Am Ende Einer Strausse to it - which only speaks volumes about those tracks, because this one is amazing). It never seems to stay still, thus fitting the traditional "prog" mold. The drumming is wonderful as always, and the guitar(s?) give(s) the song a wonderful aura, and this isn't one you want to miss. It's actually quite catchy, but not in a bad way.

Amon Duul II's fifth studio release, Wolf City, is an album I will never get tired to recommending as a relatively safe introduction to Krautrock. Though there really isn't any easy way into Krautrock, this album is about as easy as they come, and on top of that, it's a classic. Different does not mean inferior, and this album, while different, is not inferior. Fans of the band simply cannot miss this, and it is a good introduction to both Amon Duul II and Krautrock as a whole. Highly recommended.

Pnoom! | 4/5 |

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