5. yoo doo right

“Call Can the best band that most people probably still haven’t heard. Can being an acronym for Communism-Anarchism-Nihilism, if you believe everything you read. I tend to reject that because it feels too political. These guys were beyond politics. Or maybe I should say, they inspired revolution, not the other way around. Though they did form in 1968 out of the virulent insurrections that were tearing through Europe at the time. Four Germans (all children of the ruins of World War Two) working with two vocalists in particular. The second one, Damo Suzuki (straight outa the Japanese ruins) tends to get the most notice. But it’s Malcolm Mooney (on the run from the Vietnam draft) fronting things on Yoo Doo Right, the monster that filled all of side two of their debut album, Monster Movie. Though the original take was apparently magnitudes longer, a six hour improv that only really stopped because they ran out of audio tape. Can being the sort of outfit that absolutely gave itself over to the music. Call them shamans, I guess, holy weirdos in tune with the gods. Which in the case of Yoo Doo Right meant the groove, and the noise from which it grew.

A letter from my friend JR comes to mind. He was traveling in Thailand at the time. I’d made him a few mixtapes before he took off, one of which contained Yoo Doo Right. Anyway, he dropped some acid one night at a particularly beautiful beachfront spot, and eventually got to wandering and wondering, just him and the moon, the waves, the sand, working through all manner of stuff, including his own desperate loneliness, about as far away from home and family and friends as a young man could get without leaving the planet altogether. And the thought occurred to him right around midnight that he could just lie down, let the tide take him, solve all his problems and confusions … but the music got to him first, the quiet part in the middle, the singer muttering about whoever Yoo was and how they better-better doo it right, over and over, an incantation, everything starting to rise in groove and passion until at some point, JR realized he was dancing, just him and the moon and the ocean, the entirety of the universe somehow graspable, very much in tune and in time. And yeah, I can’t put it any better than that. The power of Can, hippie-freak weirdos beating the living drum of revolution-evolution-whatever it is that finally sets us all free. Gotta-gotta get it right.” (Philip Random)

114. mother sky

“It’s 1970 and the five piece Communist-Anarchist-Nihilist combo known as Can are getting down to it somewhere in Koln, West Germany, releasing the thunder, inventing the future in the form of the fourteen minute monster called Mother Sky. The first version I’d hear would be an edit, and even that was better part of eight minutes. The album in question was a double vinyl compilation called Cannibalism and to this day it remains my go-to when somebody asks me what’s the best starter Can album. Because it covers the most ground while tactfully avoiding their later just-not-as-great stuff. Because Can, in their prolonged moment, were f***ing great. Not just the best of the so-called Krautrock crowd, but maybe (on some days anyway) the best damned band ever, from anywhere, any time. And for me, that moment starts with 1970’s Soundtracks (an album’s worth of music made for various movies) because it’s the first Can offering to feature Damo Suzuki‘s vocals, which definitely rise to the occasion of Mother Sky.” (Philip Random)

267. halleluwah

“It’s true. Can saved us all at least a decade before most of humanity even knew of their existence (my corner of it anyway). Because while everybody else was reeling from the meltdown of the Beatles, the deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, the end of 1960s in general, backtracking deeper and deeper into so-called authentic blues, or going all progressive, singing of castles, strange kingdoms, lost dimensions (not that there was anything particularly wrong with it) … the Communist-Anarchist-Nihilist combo known as Can (operating out of their own schloss in Koln, West Germany) were still fiercely working the now, deep into the pretty much infinite groove of Halleuwah, the Lord be praised indeed! Howls and riffs and passing rips of melody and noise and the best f***ing drummer ever — the whole mad stew still sounding fresh and dangerous and profoundly ahead of its time even now, decades later. Why is it not way higher on this list then? Good question. I guess I must’ve been just post a phase of listening to it too much when I was compiling things.” (Philip Random)

523. Vitamin C

“A nifty little almost pop song from the group known as Can about who knows what? Including the singer, I’m pretty sure, Damo Suzuki from Japan, hanging out in Germany, trying to work in English, ending up inventing his own dadaesque language. A song about whatever you want it to be about, I guess, although I’ll go with my friend Thomas’s interpretation. It’s about that dissipated feeling you get when you’ve wasted all your precious vril energy on rich, yet pointless pleasures. But the music’s there to revive you, like the potion it is, alchemical and true.” (Philip Random)

Can-1972-promo

587. mushroom

Can‘s Tago Mago is the greatest album in the history of humankind. At least it was (for me) for a good chunk of 1986-87. Sounds that were so far ahead of their time even then (a decade and a half after its release) that normal folks are still trying to figure it all out. Hint: it’s applied magick, four Germans cranking out the avant-grooves and textures, Japanese singer cruising cosmically in and out of it all as only 1971 could allow. The Axis powers of WW2 reunited (sort of, Can never containing any Italians), but this time taking the right drugs, only concerned with conquering all of the world’s freak scenes. Which is as it should be.” (Philip Random)

CAn-1971

672. future days

“Are Can still the greatest band that most people have never heard? Probably. Which makes Future Days (song and album) always worth recommending, marking both the peak and the beginning of the end of their glory days. Not that they didn’t still have some great music in them post 1973, it would just never get back to such a strange and ethereal peak. Because singer, vocalist, lead madman Damo Suzuki was slowly fading away, not to return. Like a bittersweet dream of the future that actually came true, because there I was, a good ten or twelve years after the fact, hearing it for the first time myself, and it was perfect, it was exactly what the mid-80s felt like. Living in a future, ready or not.” (Philip Random)