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Can - Delay 1968 CD (album) cover

DELAY 1968




3.62 | 156 ratings

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3 stars This is an archive release of tracks from the earliest days of the band, even before Monster Movie, and since its release it's often been considered the band's "real" debut. There is also a pretty sizable school of thought that says this is superior to MM, and since I've never been a huge fan of that one, I'd hoped I'd fall into this category. My understanding was that this was based in a more "traditional" approach than MM, but if anything I thought this would be somewhat intriguing.

Sadly, I barely even like this album as much as that one. I do find some amusement in the idea that Can was once a weird sort of psychedelic acid-rock band, and there's definitely some good material, but this album has many of the flaws that would show themselves on MM. The rhythm section is basically anonymous (not bad, but not remarkable either), Schmidt doesn't really sound necessary, and while Karoli displays a versatile set of licks, he can hardly carry the album himself. And man, I just get really tired of Mooney in a hurry. On half of the tracks here, I find him actively irritating, and this is a serious problem.

Of the seven tracks, only three tickle my fancy enough that I'd want to hear them all the way through again, even if the other tracks tend to have at least some points of interest (this is why, despite my largely negative attitude towards many of the album's attributes, I can still barely squeeze out a *** rating for it). "Nineteenth Century Man" sounds like the band trying to do its own version of a Chuck Berry rocker, with Karoli hammering out bluesy licks over and over. I wouldn't go so far as to call this a "normal" rock song, but it's as close as you'd get from Can for a little while, and it's a pretty good one. "Thief" is a remarkably moving ballad, where Mooney's worn vocals provide a strong burst of emotional power as he sings, "why must I be the thief ... why must I be the thief ..." over a simple atmospheric guitar line (interspersed with some slow emotional soloing on par with anything on Soundtracks). For once, Mooney is able to make his voice produce a strong emotional effect, and this is probably the best track he did with the band. Later on, then, comes "Uphill," an amusingly noisy chugging rocker with more Mooney blabbering that's at least coherent enough not to be distracting. It might not deserve to be almost 7 minutes long, but I've heard worse.

The other tracks aren't great, though. "Butterfly" just seems like it should be better than it is, as Karoli's ultra-minimalistic guitar pounding gives an ironically epic feel to the sound, and for a couple of minutes Mooney's ramblings about a dying butterfly sound kinda awesome. Unfortunately, while this might have made a decent 3-minute track, it gets stretched well past the 8-minute mark, without any especially interesting instrumental tricks or without any significant shifts in dynamics or anything to break the tedium, and I get tired of it soon. It's easy to see how this has elements of Can jamming that would come later, but the band had a long way to go in making its jamming into something that could capture the interest of a plebe like me. "Pnoom" is a 30-second throwaway (amusing enough, though), "Man Named Joe" is an upbeat romp but kinda stupid, and the closing "Little Star of Bethlehem" starts off sounding promising before forgetting to go anywhere at all for seven minutes. These aren't the worst things in Can's career, but I'd have absolutely no reason to care about them if they didn't have "historical significance."

In short, I'm probably missing something with this material, but I don't really feel any kind of gaping void in my life from not appreciating this album more. They might not have sounded like anybody else of the time, but I'm not necessarily sure we should be crediting new and exotic ways of intermittently sucking. Seek out "Thief" (and maybe "Nineteenth Century Man" and "Uphill") however you can, but don't break a sweat over the rest.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |


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