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Can - Tago Mago CD (album) cover

TAGO MAGO

Can

 

Krautrock

3.96 | 657 ratings

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LearsFool
Prog Reviewer
5 stars You would think that after seventy-three reviews and counting as of the time of writing, there wouldn't be much more for me to say about the first of Can's magnum trilogy. People mentioning the high and hypnotic kick drums of Jaki Liebizeit, Damo Suzuki's madcap vocal stylings, and the perfected psychedelic guitar riffs, solos, and noodlings of Michael Karoli. The album's general experimentation, strangeness, and yet out and out quality, unexplainable as it is for some. And then those who warn that the unadventurous and symph purists out there need not apply. However, there is some more to say:

"Tago Mago" is a concept album. There is a method to Damo's madness. The concept? Nuclear armageddon. Starting off with "Paperhouse", we get one of the best ever pieces of standard psychkraut, which as it happens is the world before midnight. This is also a musical launching pad, as familiar as your home neighbourhood. After seven minutes of hippie life, the music suddenly slows, the kick drums enter... "Mushroom", the day of reckoning. Damo describes the "mushroom head" and the horrors it wrought the only we he can, simply and emotionally. The track ends with with one of the weapons hitting, and then black, fallout stained rain falls to welcome "Oh Yeah". The band's way of depicting the post- apocalyptic wasteland is to just follow a man - Damo - going mad from the horrors, chaos, and loneliness. With "Oh Yeah", Damo can only react with gibberish of various shades - English, Japanese, forwards, backwards. By the time of "Aumgn" and "Peking O", Damo has gone completely mad, and his thoughts turn to dark places truly reflective of the burnt wastes. His madness, though, eventually leads him to just retreat into his mind, and take a seat at the Mad Hatter's tea party or somesuch - "Bring Me Coffee or Tea", a repreivingly beautiful and calm end for us as well.

Some of this album's influences have been stated here before: post-punk's debt to Can is well known and documented, and Russellk has mentioned how The Orb and other of the more experimental and progressive groups of EDM's '90's heyday namecheck these krautrockers as well. Probably the most sweeping influence that this record specifically has wrought, however, is in essentially founding industrial music via "Aumgn" and "Peking O". White Noise, Kluster, and Suicide are fellow pioneers of a style they had no idea they were actually minting, but, as evidenced by John Lydon naming Can the supreme influence for Public Image Ltd., it is clear what the cornerstone of the genre is. This connection is the reason why the conclusion that industrial is a twisted descendant of psychedelia is as correct as the more general conclusion that industrial is essentially just the breakaway dark side of electronica. As well, Can hangs majorly over most pronk bands, mainly This Heat and Cardiacs, with particularly strong connections to the former, by way of This Heat cutting "Deceit", their own concept album about the bomb.

But most importantly, "Tago Mago" is simply a masterpiece. Can just broke so many barriers here in all the best ways, and for it are krautrock's most named, loved, and influential band. The playing - especially Liebizeit's drums and Damo's vocals - are top notch. This is one of krautrock's quintessential albums due to its wide range of experimentation and unique quality, though as such it is not in any way by the books as far as the genre is concerned - those who got turned off the genre due to this record shouldn't be so disheartened. But for the adventurous among us, this is a required listen, and a pinnacle of all experimental and art music, and all prog.

LearsFool | 5/5 |

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