Can - Tago Mago - Review
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critics' view

Arriving in February 1971 was this boundary-pushing double-album set from Köln’s repetitive groove monsters. With Japanese wanderer Damo Suzuki now having taken over completely as lead vocalist, a clearer identity emerges for the group. The quintet line up for this one: Damo Suzuki (21, vocals); Holger Czukay (32, bass, engineering, editing); Michael Karoli (22, guitar, violin); Jaki Liebezeit (32, drums, double bass, piano) and Irmin Schmidt (33, keyboards, vocals on “Aumgn”).

The album starts offensively with the prog-ish “Paperhouse” which struggles for any sort of connection within its seven minutes, recalling some of the more boring aspects of the psychedelic rock era. Better, is the more simplistic and minimalistic “Mushroom”, a repetitive and spacey trip for a new, blank generation. Better again is “Oh Yeah”, delivered with a masterclass in how to beat some drum, be economical with guitar, be slightly crazy with your vocals, ride the groove and DIG the repetition.

The entirety of side 2 is taken up by the sprawling “Halleluhwah” which oozes attitude and sonic invention, and is served with oodles of funk-groove, one step beyond Sly Stone or George Clinton. It is other-worldly, and quite unlike anything else which is going on in the planet in ‘71. Some groups just lead from the front, and this weird, and very wonderful, piece is one such instance.

The entirety of side 3 is given over to “Aumgn”, a remarkable feat of noisemaking which journeys deep into an avant-garde adventure playground, with nightmarish vocal drones by keyboardist Irmin adding to the downright strangeness, before it all ends rhythmically in a swathe of tribal African abandon.

The more experimental nature of the second record is underlined on side 4 with Damo’s disconcerting primal screamer “Peking O” which flirts with some bossa-nova in amongst the craziness. It’s not one I’d recommended for your local tea dance in Bournemouth. “Bring Me Coffee Or Tea” (no, they couldn’t have, surely?) finishes things off where the album started – in a prog-ish haze. This time, however, the excesses are much more agreeable, and almost seem to flirt subliminally with Latin-American motifs, in keeping with the preceding track with which it shares a side. Presumably, these pseudo-flamenco stylings are the work of Michael.

It took me a while to appreciate the nuances many and varied within this LP – it’s worth taking the time out for.

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