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Can - Soon Over Babaluma CD (album) cover

SOON OVER BABALUMA

Can

 

Krautrock

3.60 | 141 ratings

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Pnoom!
4 stars Imagine this scene. Imagine a modern sort of Rome, a great empire spread across continents. It rose up under one great leader, and was then followed by a new, even greater leader who brought this Rome to new heights. Then imagine this leader being unfit to lead, and having to leave. Rome has no new leaders left who can keep it at its previous level, and it starts to decline. It's only a matter of time before it crumbles. Now, apply this image to music. We now have a band that becomes great under one leader. This leader is replaced by an even better leader who somehow manages to improve the music. And, finally, this leader has to leave, and the musical quality slowly starts to decline. The last step of this process is to apply it to a specific band. It is CAN, of course, who I am talking about. CAN is this Rome, this greatest of all bands, made great under Malcolm Mooney, and made legendary under Damo Suzuki. And then Damo Suzuki left, and the music started to decline.

This album is the first post Damo Suzuki album CAN released, continuing somewhat in the vein of Future Days, the last Damo Suzuki release, but not nearly as interesting. And yet, it is still worthy of the CAN moniker, because much of the material here approaches the same levels as that of their classic period (Monster Movie to Future Days, and including Delay 1968). But, and this is important, it never reaches fully the insane heights of albums like Monster Movie or Tago Mago. As I said, it is similar in style to Future Days, meaning that it is slightly symphonic in nature, but still contains enough Krautrock weirdness to keep traditional Krautrock fans happy. The only major difference between the two albums (other than that Future Days is much better) is the presence of world music (before the term had been coined), which is overwhelming on the first three tracks (which are quite conspicuously the weaker three tracks, with the exception of Splash). CAN had started to show these world music tendencies on Ege Bamyasi, and had seemed to have dropped them on Future Days, but here they resurface. Thankfully, enough traditional CAN type music is here (that is, mind-expanding, boundary pushing, thought provoking music) to keep my pleased and listening all the way through.

The first half of this album often strikes me as one big buildup. First we are presented with Dizzy Dizzy, which, the first time I heard it, had me going, "oh no, CAN's really gone down the drain." I like it a lot more now, but I was and still am quite wary of it. Things get slightly better with Come Sta, La Luna, another one I hated at first, but one which now I actively enjoy (as opposed to Dizzy Dizzy, which I don't dislike, but which I also feel mostly indifferent towards). And, finally, we get Splash, a crazy, fun filled ride in a similar vein as Spray off of Future Days. At this point, you can tell that it still is CAN going, as only they could pull off a song like that. As I said, however, this is all just one big buildup. The climax has yet to come, but when it does, it lasts twenty minutes and is very close to the level of such songs as Halleluwah, Pinch, Yoo Doo Right, Soup, Aumgn, and other CAN experimentations. This climax is, of course, the two-song side two of this album. There are two tracks, but, in reality, both blend together to form a two-part mini-masterpiece (but not a full scale masterpiece like the ones I mentioned). Chain Reaction is the upbeat half of the two, getting us started in rocking fashion, only to have Quantum Physics close us in slower but no less crazy fashion.

There are still plenty of problems with this album, however. Dizzy Dizzy sounds completely uninspired, and if it weren't for the fact that CAN were doing it, I probably wouldn't even give it the time of day. It's just not worth my time. The rest of the album is better, but it still doesn't sound nearly as inspired as any of their earlier albums were. I don't know why their music would change with vocalists, but it did each time they changed vocalists, and with the loss of an amazing vocalist like Damo Suzuki, there comes a cause and effect "chain reaction" that looks something like this: 1) Damo Suzuki leaves band 2) The music gets worse And, finally, the vocals are really nothing here. When Malcolm Mooney had to leave, they replaced him with Damo Suzuki. When Damo left, however, they replaced him with themselves, and they really fall flat on their face. They would have been better off leaving vocals well enough alone and simply going for instrumental music, because the music here is leagues above the vocals.

In the end, I'd recommend this album for all fans of CAN, because there's a good chance you'll like it (much as I do), even if you don't think it stands up to their earlier work (as I don't). It's not a bad album by any means, and is indeed better than many albums I know, even those much more highly regarded than this one is. The CAN musical empire had not yet crumbled, though the cracks began to appear here. They would hold it together for one more album, Landed, and then all hell would break loose with Flow Motion. Don't start here, but if you do like the band, definitely try it. You will be disappointed at first, but eventually, you'll come to realize that, while it cannot hold its own with their Mooney and Damo eras, it can hold its own with the general world of music, and even prog music. It's not a classic, as each of their earlier albums was, but neither is it a dud. Give it a try and take an open mind along for the ride, and you should be just fine.

Pnoom! | 4/5 |

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