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Can - Monster Movie  CD (album) cover

MONSTER MOVIE

Can

 

Krautrock

3.78 | 242 ratings

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4 stars The Dinosaur of Prog vs the Monster of Punk

This album is unique. It's quite incredible that this was recorded in 1969, as it feels completely timeless, and yet has an appeal for every generation. It will never sound like "old" music, yet it is the most basic and primaeval expression of music you could hope to hear. The raw energy and cyclically repetitive rock would have you believe that you were listening to some punk garage band from the streets, rather than a group of students of one of the most influential composers of the 20th Century and a free-jazz drummer.

But why would a free-jazz drummer instilled with the motto "Never Repeat" decide to move to the opposite of this lofty ideal?

Why would students of the very latest compositional techniques that were influential on every electronic group of the late 1960s, not to mention the Beatles and their experiments that led to outstanding albums like "Revolver" and "Sergeant Pepper", decide to produce music so apparently minimal and initially empty-sounding?

Communism, Anarchism, Nihilism.

You may be surprised at how much you recognise in this (and other) Can albums, as their back catalogue has been plundered again and again by bands in search of inspiration.

It's the primitive grooves that strike at the very heart of musical consciousness that do it - drum beats and cymbal splashes extracted from the soul of the human tribe, underpinning stalking bass lines that demand movement - and if you don't move to the bass, it does the movement for you. This is bass that is felt long before it is heard - and it's high in the mix, as Can were rather partial to bass.

Then we have the screaming layers of guitars and keyboards putting a crystalline icing on a fat cake, but in between, we have the vocalisations of Mooney, the hoarse- larnyxed chanting that rarely attempts anything so pretentious and arty as singing - but when he does, the effect is quite disturbing - a kind of Klaus Meine in baggy trousers, although I have to say that I have never been keen on hearing nursery rhymes used in rock songs no matter what the sought effect.

There is no point looking for structure in Can's music, so an open mind is required from the word go. Comparisons are often made of the music of P/I/L, Talk Talk, Primal Scream and Radiohead to Can - and it is from that perspective that the best appreciation will be made; If you're looking for riffs, then look elsewhere. If constant change and virtuosic displays are what you crave, then you won't find it here.

Indeed, "Outside My Door" is closer to some of the earlier White Stripes material - stripped-down essence of Blues Rock - albeit wrapped up in a Stranglers-like shell of heavy keyboards, thick bass lines and aggressive, punky vocals that hearken back to the Velvet Undeground. Oh, and THAT groove, that surpasses even the Ozric Tentacles in its groovetasticness.

The album is wrapped up with the 20-minute megalith of "Yoo Doo Right" that is the piece-de-resistance in every aspect. The vocals are rawer, the bass is bassier, the keyboards and guitars are stripped back almost beyond essence, and the drums produce the heartbeat of the earth - the self-same rhythms produced by Ug the caveman when he realised that whacking a rock with another rock made other people want to dance, and altering these just slighty would induce a rapt state in the dancers.

In fact, Liebezeit strips it right back to Ug's very first impacts, about halfway through the piece.

Summary

So how exactly is this progressive rock?

Everyone who knows anything about Prog Rock makes the distinction between rock music that is progressive, and music of the Prog Rock genre.

Monster Movie fits neither description comfortably - it is in a category more or less of its own, but at its very heart, it is a number of very lengthy jam sessions edited down in the studio - one of the techniques Stockhausen imparted, and indeed, a technique that would not have been possible without the innovations of that composer.

And that is the key: It is composed, but feels completely improvised because it is composed entirely from improvisations.

Certif1ed | 4/5 |

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