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Neu ! - Neu! CD (album) cover


Neu !



4.05 | 375 ratings

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4 stars How many seminal "Krautrock" debut albums were recorded in 1971? The first LPs by Ash Ra Tempel, Brainticket, Faust, Mythos, and Neu! all come to mind, although I'm sure there were others. Neu! must've been one of the last, recorded in December and released in 1972, and thus the group (drummer Klaus Dinger and guitarist Michael Rother) had the benefit of hearing what many of these other acts were doing. Yet Neu! doesn't sound much like these others (full disclosure: I've only heard excerpts from Brainticket's Cottonwoodhill).

Unlike much contemporaneous Krautrock I've heard, Neu! contains broad swaths of cool-headed and laid-back music, in some places rhythmic and trance-y, in others atmospheric. The exceptions are "Im Glück" and "Lieber Honig," the relatively experimental first and last sections of "Jahresüberblick." "Lieber Honig," the album-closer, is the only one of the six tracks I'm not particularly fond of. It's the only vocal song here (singing courtesy Dinger), and the vocals aren't very good. Maybe I'd feel different if I understood the language, but it seems dragged out, almost as if the group and producer Conny Plank were compelled to stretch this little tune to seven minutes.

But much of the album is very enjoyable. My favorites are "Hallogallo" and "Negativland," both of which are based on the "motorik" drum style. Dinger's (literally) driving beat makes "Hallogallo" in particular sound like Kraftwerk, the group he and Rother had just left to form Neu!. It's kind of amazing how much these songs prefigure early-1980s euro-wave (Gary Numan, A Flock of Seagulls). Maybe not surprisingly, Plank later produced albums by number of important British new-wave bands, including three Ultravox LPs (1978 to 1981) and the debut of by the Tourists (1979) and Eurythmics (In the Garden, 1981). American robo-rockers Devo also recorded their 1978 debut album Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! at Plank's studio in Cologne.

Returning to Neu!: "Weißensee" is also a nice piece. Rhythmic, but mellower than "Hallogallo" or "Negativland," it's the second half of the acidic "Sonderangebot" → "Weißensee" sequence on Side One. This is the space-rock portion of the record, and from the point of view of format, its inclusion alongside the rock tracks and the experimental pieces marks Neu! as quintessential early-1970s Krautrock album.

Neu! is one of the best albums I've heard of this genre, and one of the most accessible. Thus I'd suggest it as a starting point for anyone interested in Krautrock.

patrickq | 4/5 |


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