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Can - Can [Aka: Inner Space] CD (album) cover





2.69 | 85 ratings

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3 stars The penultimate album by the late, great Krautrockers of CAN (before their final mid- 1980s reunion) originally appeared twice (actually two-and-a-half times) on their page here at Prog Archives. My copy is the cheesy 1985 Thunder Records re-package of the untitled 1979 original, one of the first compact discs I ever bought, which is only fitting, since the LP marked my initial exposure to arguably the best musical group of the late 20th Century.

In retrospect it wasn't an ideal introduction, and I wouldn't recommend it as such to anyone else. Can had been treading water for several years at that point, drifting a little too far from their more exploratory Krautrock roots after signing to Virgin Records in 1975. But this self-titled album (only later re-christened "Inner Space", the name of their home studio) at least marked a rehabilitation of sorts, sounding like a breath of fresh air compared to the uninspired doodling of their previous "Out of Reach" (the two albums were subsequently combined and sold on a single CD, a decent bargain for Can completists with money to burn).

First the good news: Holger Czukay, the band's irrepressible radio wave surfer and occasional bass guitarist, was back in the fold, although he doesn't actually touch a musical instrument here (this throwaway CD re-issue doesn't even mention it, but on the original vinyl he was listed as an "editor"). You can still detect his presence, however, not least on the oddball interlude "Ping Pong", believe it or not one of the highlights of the album.

This is pure Czukay: a 20-second (or so) audio-verité documentary of, you guessed it, a game of ping-pong, rather sloppily played while someone thumbs a kalimba in the background. Czukay's deadpan sense of humor also animates the faux-punk demolition of Offenbach's "Can-Can", an obvious choice for the band's periodic "Ethnological Forgery Series" of cultural facsimiles, and the best musical joke of its kind since Thijs Van Leer yodeled his way through "Hocus Pocus".

It was probably this track, and its ragged epilogue "Can Be", that sold my unrefined ears on the album in the first place, in much the same way that ELP's energetic update of Aaron Copeland's "Hoedown" jump-started my earliest interest in Prog Rock years before. "Can-Can", by the way, is listed as EFS #99, one of only a handful in the ongoing series to appear throughout the band's history. So where are all the rest?

The balance of the album is built on impeccably played but undemanding dance music for people (like me) with two left feet. "All Gates Open" is the best of the lot, with a sinuous subterranean groove, some funky chunky guitar, and a shifting wall of keyboard noise, always a Can specialty. But the other tracks tend to follow the example set by "Sunday Jam", a pleasant enough diversion with an all-too literal title, and like a lot of later Can music notably a jam, unlike the more challenging "instant composition" improvs of their earlier years.

In all, not the best swan song for such a groundbreaking and influential band (and a premature ending anyway: see 1989's more improved "Rite Time"), but in the context of their late '70s downward career arc a much better effort than could have been expected.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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