The most gratifying thing gleaned from a first listen to Can’s Anthology is, even after all this time (music has changed so much and the underground has gotten stranger and stranger), how absolutely bonkers so much of their music still sounds. Don’t get me wrong, the grooves that bassist Holgar Czukay and drummer Jaki Liebezeit held down were every bit as tight and funky as James Brown’s Fabulous Flames in full flight, primitive sampling techniques were trailblazed, and Michael Karoli could unleash some fine, fine, fiery lead guitar work that might even give Guitar Magazine subscribers some pause, but to mine this rich, deep vein of alien strangeness all the way back to the late ’60s, perhaps even outdoing the Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa in the process? Amazing.
Their intense locked grooves still sound so fucking exciting and invigorating, and their ADD genre jumps are every bit as important a template for how pop music can be pushed and distorted beyond all recognition but still remain, at its heart, catchy fucking music. It’s so important to have these touchstones of aesthetic independence. Mute Records has done us all a huge favor and re-released a remastered version of this anthology, sampling liberally from the voluminous back catalog of a bunch of German art students (and their two famously loopy singers, American Malcolm Moody and Japanese Damo Suzuki) who changed the world even more than the riots, revolutions, and iconoclasts who inspired them.
Y’know, I could pad this review out to thousands of words just with the names of bands who have supped at their table of endless ideas. Here’s just a few: Sonic Youth, David Bowie, Yeasayer, Stereolab, This Mortal Coil, Public Image Ltd, The Fall, Dead Voices on Air, David Sylvian, Joy Division, Boredoms and Mars Volta. And they only took bits and pieces, no one’s EVEN TRIED to ingest the vast well of inspiration that led them to compose sun-drenched, dazed tribal groovers like “Mother Sky” and “Yoo Doo Right,” space-jazz frugs like “One More Night” and “Spoon,” proto-hip hop funky jamming (“Halleluwah”), transient outbursts and noise reveries (“Aumgn” and “Mother Upduff”), world music-swallowing fusion freakouts (“Half Past One” and “Animal Waves”), dub-style toasting (“Doko E” and even early forays into ambience (“Musette”), exotica meets Velvets tributes (“Moonshake”), disco throwdowns (“I Want More”), lo-fi doodles (“Blue Bag”) and strangely lulling synthy lullabies (“Last Night Sleep”) that anticipate The Cure’s Head on the Door. Whew!
To be so in love with the endless possibilities of sound…
Mute Records: www.mute.com