Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Amon Düül II - Dance Of The Lemmings

Amon Düül II
Dance Of The Lemmings


Released 1971 on United Artists (reissue: 1989 on Mantra)
Reviewed by Lord Lucan, 14/08/2000ce


This was the first Amon Düül II record I ever bought and I loved it, so I was surprised to read Julian describing it as a piece of ‘pedestrian shit’ several years later in Krautrocksampler. If you like the other Amon Düül II records and have been avoiding this one because of Julian’s comments I’d just like to say it’s worth checking out. As far as I’m concerned this record is far superior to its muddily produced follow-up ‘Carnival In Babylon’.

Chris Karrer gets side one and titles it ‘Syntelman's March Of The Roaring Seventies’. It’s supposedly subdivided into four parts but sounds much more fractured than that to me. The whole thing works as an apocalyptic glam suite. Many of the stylings here are 'The Man Who Sold The World' Bowie, right down to the vocal warblings and high-camp melodrama. Song structure is fractured, with sudden asides crashing in for a few seconds to be replaced by a differently arranged piece of music. Acoustic and electric guitars are given equal prominence here, when on some other Amon Düül II records it sounds like they’re fighting it out.

John Weinzierl’s side two has a track listing I can’t get to grips with as it’s so hopelessly divided and subdivided that following which track is which is nigh on impossible. The music here lurches from Led Zep heavy guitar riffing to eastern European-sounding cross-legged weepy pastorals with no warning. And it works! Oh yes it DOES! Instrumentation is expanded to include sitar, all manner of electronic keyboards and even the odd bit of Liberace piano bashing! Renate sings her heart out in the most heart-wrenching way and some of the guitar picking is exquisite.

‘The Marilyn Monroe-Memorial-Church’ is undoubtedly the highlight of this set in which Amon Düül II play some of their spaciest kosmische Musik. It sounds like some of the Cosmic Jokers’ quieter and less effects-laden moments or Ash Ra Tempel in drift mode with a dash of 'Affenstunde' bash-freakout. But as it’s Amon Düül II playing it can’t help coming out all autumnal and strangely ritualistic and, well goddamn creepy. The organ is funereal but poignant rather than maudlin. A bass carries us along, occasionally reverbing out so much it sounds like Lothar Meid has suddenly been dropped down a well. A mournful piano suddenly starts to collapse into keyboard abuse, now and then falling into that same well only to be hoisted up and thrown back in. But when the drums kick in your head is taken on a frantic ride. It feels like someone’s put a metal bin on your head and started laying into it with all the fury they can muster. Then it all seems to go down the same plughole that ‘A Day In The Life’ does only to resurface briefly in the same way as Can’s ‘Bel Air’

Side four sounds like out-takes from demo sessions rather than inspired improvisation. ‘Chewing Gum Telegram’ breaks the mood of uneasy calm inspired by ‘The Marilyn Monroe-Memorial-Church’ with its incessant riffing, falling apart like the rehearsal it sounds like all the way through. ‘Stumbling Over Melted Moonlight’ starts off as Pink Floyd’s ‘Sysiphus’, falling into a load of head swaying wibbly guitar onanism to be followed by Floydy organ and metallic tremolo drums. It goes nowhere, then can’t even decide to stay away as it resurfaces for no apparent reason. ‘Toxicological Whispering’ lurches along. Each instrument does its own thing and it really sounds like one of the few things Amon Düül II did where they weren’t listening to each other. There is beauty in the chaos here, though. Although, placed after the first two tracks on this side it’s bound to sound more special than it truly is.

In the notes to his Krautrock Top 50 Julian says: “Of course, this list is not exhaustive and is based on the records that I personally know and love.(…) And if I missed your favourite one out, well excuse me.” Fair enough, but I thought a case should be made for this record as it’s my favourite Amon Düül II release after 'Phallus Dei' and I’m sure there are others out there who have a fond connection to this album too. I personally think side four isn’t even worthy of curiosity value but that still leaves three sides of pretty good Krautrock.


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