Sunday, December 6, 2009

Can - Tago Mago


How is this record so dang good and fun to listen to? I mean, on the surface it's nothing more than a steady drum beat, jamming guitars, and crazed vocals that drone on and on. But what this album has in spades is a locked in, dead-on groove and one of the coolest rock singers in history. Heck, I'm sold.

The amazing thing is that normally I'd expect music this hypnotic and spacey to kind of float on in the background without keeping my full attention for the entire time. You know, mind wandering music. But not this. I'm captivated like a cat watching a plate of tuna on a merry-go-round. Watch it go 'round, and 'round, and 'round.

The consensus masterpiece of the album, "Halleluhwah," is the perfect example. The drums and bass are locked into a groove that, dang it if I can't stop bobbing my head and tapping my foot to it. It's freaking addicting. And the experimentation over the top of it is fascinating. The screechy violins, the groovy guitars with Damo's scatting alongside them, the crazed keyboards. Count. Me. In.

After the heavy groovefest of "Halleluhwah," "Aumgn" provides a reprieve with its complete absence of a beat, instead opting for noise experiments. The noise is joined by tribal-sounding drums towards the end. It's a welcome palate cleanser, and creates quite a stark, in-the-basement-of-a-dungeon-like ambiance.

"Peking O" is by far the most experimental piece on the album. Electronic beats lay the foundation for wild piano, keyboard, and all sorts of other doodling around. Damo's vocals are played backwards at hyperactive speed with manic beats and keyboards. He sounds like a paranoid, hallucinating 5 year old hyped up on a couple liters of coffee...

And speaking of which, "Bring Me Coffee or Tea" is a great album closer, which calls back to the more conventional aspects of the first half of the record.

I've yet to mention the entire first side of the album, which challenges side B (filled entirely with "Halleluwah") as my favorite side on the album. "Paperhouse" and "Oh Yeah" are especially essential listening.

The key to enjoying this album is to stay with it. It's gotten better with each listen so far for me. It's nearly impossible to capture everything it offers initially. But patience has rewarded me one of the best krautrock albums I've ever heard.

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