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Can - Soundtracks CD (album) cover

SOUNDTRACKS

Can

 

Krautrock

3.79 | 180 ratings

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tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Now THAT's the Can that made me care enough to review them. Partially because this album wasn't conceived in one main recording session, but instead was a compilation of sorts of tracks the band contributed to various films, and partially because it's historically a transitional album (two tracks were recorded with Mooney in the band, the other five with Suzuki), Soundtracks tends to be somewhat overlooked in the early works of Can. This, as far as I'm concerned, is a horrific travesty on the part of Can lovers, as it's easily my #2 from the group, and were it not for including the lowest point of the first Mooney era, this would probably be my favorite (and would probably get a ***** rating).

As mentioned, two of the tracks on here are from when Mooney was still with the group, before his schizophrenia completely overwhelmed him and he had to take off. One of them, the closing "She Brings the Rain," is actually quite nice. It's completely unlike anything the band would ever release in the rest of its career, a perfectly conventional and pleasant jazz- pop number whose total lack of weirdness probably helps explain why the album gets largely overlooked (though I sincerely hope I can give Can fans more credit than that). The other one, however, the side-one closer "Soul Desert," is a total disgrace, and amply shows that Mooney had to go. What's pretty odd to me, actually, is that it's not just Mooney's singing itself that bothers me so much on this track, though that certainly is an incredible irritant. No, what really strikes me is how stiff and uninvigorating the backing track sounds, especially in comparison to the instrumental textures on the rest of the album. It's almost as if the band had to throw off the shackles of Mooney's presence, not just to improve the vocals but to give themselves freedom to really cut loose themselves, in order to reach its full potential.

And boy, is that potential reached in the other five tracks. The opening "Deadlock," as well as its reprise, "Deadlock (Title Music)," is one of the most powerful emotional experiences in the Can catalogue, mainly because of the GORGEOUSLY mournful guitar sound that Karoli pulls out. Suzuki's waillings in unison with the guitar lines may be completely indiscernable, but the phrasing he uses complements the overall mood (whatever it exactly might be) to perfection. The "(Title Music)" reprise is even more stately, pushing the guitar line into the background and pushing the booming percussion and (in parts) Schmidt's chordings into the foreground, and while it's not as gorgeous as its predecessor, it's certainly worth all of its 1:40 of space.

The other two tracks on side one manage to pull off the simultaneous feat of not sounding as "twisted" as I usually think of Can as being, and of sounding twisted enough that I couldn't imagine any other band doing tracks like this. "Tango Whiskeyman" is a good counterexample to show what I mean when I say Mooney's presence made the band too stiff and rigid and awkward; this shows (to my ears, anyway) a much more confident, much more interesting Jaki than the one playing behind Mooney, as his "ethnic" percussion rhythms (and come to think of it, was anybody in 'Western' pop music really bringing in "ethnic" rhythms of this kind back in 1970? There sure weren't any Talking Heads around yet, for sure!) give a neat flair to a folk-pop ballad with a catchy melody and an alienish vocal part. "Don't Turn the Light On, Leave Me Alone" is even better, a demonstration of Can's mastery of cold, robotic, hypnotic bass-heavy pop-rock made as paranoid as possible by Damo's slurred vocals. And dig those Easterny wind-instrument noises (are they recorders? I can't completely tell) that act as sprinkles on this doughnut of paranoid depression!

The main attraction of the album, though, is undoubtedly the 14:30 "Mother Sky." From the very first moments of Karoli's guitar pyrotechnics, underpinned by the groove-power of Jaki and Holger setting the standard (to that point) of how a rhythm section is supposed to sound when functioning as a "normal" rhythm section, I am entranced, up to the very end. Suzuki is rousing and hypnotic, Karoli just rips whenever the focus comes around to him (and he takes on several styles and moods throughout), Schmidt makes some solid contributions of his own near the end, and the rhythm section plows on and on in the tightest manner possible. Of course, this doesn't stop Jaki from having his own special spotlight, either; all the while holding together the groove of the whole, he gets in some terrific polyrhythmic passages starting around the 5:00 mark and going on for a couple of minutes, proving that he could be even more than the world's best metronome. Man, if you've wondered why I was so down on "Yoo Doo Right" overall, it's because I knew this band had, somewhere inside it, the potential for something as amazing as "Mother Sky." "Halleluwah" ranks a little higher in my book for being awesome for 18 minutes instead of 14-and-a-half, and because it's more intriguingly disturbing, but this sucker rocks in a way even "Halleluwah" doesn't pull off, and that says something.

In short, any fan of Krautrock, instrumental jamming, or of interesting-yet-unconventional rock music has to pick up a copy of this at some point. And, of course, it goes without saying that being a Can fan without this is simply inexcusable.

tarkus1980 | 4/5 |

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