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Holger Czukay - Rome Remains Rome CD (album) cover

ROME REMAINS ROME

Holger Czukay

 

Krautrock

3.04 | 11 ratings

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Syzygy
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Holger Czukay's output in the 80s was frequently eccentric, highly unpredictable and generally quite compelling. For his fourth solo album since splitting from Can, he assembled something approximating a normal band and put together an album that even veered in the general direction of pop music here and there. The cast included a solid nucleus of ex Can colleagues Michael Karoli and Jaki Liebezeit, with Jah Wobble on bass, Ollie Marland on guitar and piano and ex-AFN announcer Sheldon Ancel acting as MC. This left Czukay free to sprinkle his own unique blend if fairy dust over the music, and there is a lot going on in these 6 tracks.

Side 1 of the original release kicked off with Hey Baba Reebop, a short piece of eccentric pop music that recalls some of Yello's more experimental moments. The vocals lose their charm pretty quickly, but the manic pace and stop/start changes prevent it from getting too boring. The centrepiece of the first half is Blessed Easter, a leisurely track dominated by a recording of Pope John Paul II's Easter ceremonies (credited on the sleeve as Popestar Wojtyla and his swinging nuns) over a lazy beat and a simple 2 chord backing. This works surprisingly well, and what could have been a tacky novelty in lesser hands is actually a genuinely absorbing and involving piece of music. Side 1 closes with Sudetenland, with lyrics about eating potatoes and freezing cold weather with lots of Czukay's trademark sound collages added to the basic track.

The second half starts, like the first, with 3 minutes of Czukay style pop. This time it's HitHit FlopFlop, which sounds as though it's sung by a particularly obnoxious 8 year old boy. As with Hey Baba Reebop the charm wears out almost immediately, but again there's a lot going on in the backing track. This gives way to the longest track on the album, the vaguely jazz inflected Perfect World. This is probably the strongest piece overall, with a strong vocal from Ancel and room for the instrumentalists to breathe some life into the composition. Karoli's guitar, which is excellent throughout the album, is up there with some of his best work with Can, and the complex rhythm gives him the opportunity to show how flexible and inventive a lead guitarist he could be. The album closes with Music in the Air, the closest thing to an instrumental on the album. Here Czukay weaves all kinds of found sources from his beloved short wave over a simple, hypnotic backing - it sounds like Canaxis with a discreet rhythm section added, and the absence of any obvious focal point makes for a haunting atmosphere. This is a track which ends all too soon, and brings the album to a strong finish.

Although this album is too patchy to merit more than 3 stars, it repays careful and repeated listening - if you're a fan, you'll love most of it, but if you're a newcomer start with Movies or On The way To The Peak Of Normal.

Syzygy | 3/5 |

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