Friday, 27 November 2015

Can - Monster Movie (1969)

Almost everything I like about CAN can be seen in purest form here; the head-on meeting of avant-garde minimalism and raw acid rock experimentation. This album brings to mind both the DEAD & Prankster collaborations of the Acid Tests, as well as the VELVET UNDERGROUND in full "White Light" mode...but "Monster Movie" has an additional element, an intangible vibe that separates it from even the best of the psychedelic era's explorations. I suppose you'd call

Mooney is Can's version of Syd Barrett; his voice is unmistakable, he's headed for a breakdown, and his early contributions are dismissed by many fans. Sure, I prefer Damo's energy, but this album just wouldn't be the same without Mooney's ragged wail. Many rockers have expressed romantic desperation, but none have approached the level he reaches on "Mary Mary" or "Outside my Door". Orgiastic, playfully dark, and unabashedly honest, this is the Krautrock version of bands like COMUS- wonderfully primal, especially compared to the idealized realms and complicated structures of typical prog.

Instrumentally, CAN's albums have rarely been a venue for highlighting the members' respective virtuosities, and "Monster Movie" is no exception. It's more about what you can do with sound than about how well you can play; CAN has nothing to prove, except that they can sound like nobody else before or since...and the best part is that it's all real; there's an immediacy and unbridled feel that most avant-garde lacks, as well as a compositional restraint that owes more to impeccable musical understanding than lack of chops. They could make a tape loop rock, and that's really saying something.

Even if you ignore the historical details (this album started the career of one of the most unique and influentual bands in rock, as well as the entire subgenre of Krautrock), this is a wonderful album. It bashes the preconception that anything avant-garde can't be fun, or that anything fun has to be silly. The music here is equally suited to drugged-out dancing, contemplative appreciation, or getting full-on naughty. Five stars is a bit too much, even for fans, because CAN just isn't for everyone ( at their best, and they had more to offer than just this album)...but "Monster Movie" should be thoroughly enjoyable for anyone who doesn't have too many preconcieved notions of what music should be.

Along with AMON DUUL II's "Phallus Dei", "Monster Movie" is the cornerstone of German "kraut-rock" scene and a fundamental work defining its sound and aesthetics. Recorded in 1969 it is still today an amazing piece of music. This is done by the original CAN line-up featuring Malcolm Mooney as vocalist and this is his only full-length album contribution. "Father Cannot Yell" and "Outside My Door" sound almost like "proto- punk" with mocking and spitting Mooney shouts and "dirty" guitar chords by Michael Karoli. Apart from VELVET UNDERGROUND, not many bands dared to question rock conventions during the peak of the "hippie era". Therefore, some prog purists may see this album as being too basic, rough and musically underdeveloped to their taste. But don't forget - such thing as "prog rock" did not exist in this period yet. "Mary Mary So Contrary" shows that even in this early period CAN were able to produce a melodic and quite catchy tune, which did not reach top lists probably only because of the geographic constraints. The psychedelic mega-jam "You Doo Right" shares company with AMON DUUL II's "Phallus Dei" and VELVET UNDERGROUND's "Sister Ray" - a noisy experimental hodge-podge that clocks over 20 minutes. It is a wonderful example showcasing Mooney's capability to use his smoke-ragged voice as a rhythm instrument or as a sound effect. It is a rhythmic and hypnotic trance-like composition, with bass and drums "beating 24-hour a day", but uninitiated listeners will probably get tired around the half, where drummer Liebezeit emulates the sound of metronome with his drum sticks and Mooney whispers his crying voice in agony. However, this is a wonderful debut album of CAN and one of truly timeless avant-garde rock efforts.  Reviews from

Songs / Tracks Listing
1. Father Cannot Yell (7:01)
2. Mary, Mary so Contrary (4:16)
3. Outside my Door (4:06)
4. You doo Right (20:14)

Total Time: 35:37

Line-up / Musicians
- Holger Czukay / bass
- Michael Karoli / guitar
- Jaki Liebezeit / drums
- Irmin Schmidt / keyboards
- Malcolm Mooney / vocals 

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