Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Can - Tago Mago

Can
Tago Mago


Released 1971 on United Artists
Reviewed by zmnathanson, 21/03/2009ce


As a young high school student growing up in Texas, I became aware of a group simply called Can. I was blown away by the sound, the guitar experimentations, and the avant-garde days of early hip-hop meets New Wave of the 21st century. That and their third album with their first collaboration with japanese singer they found in the streets of Hamburg, Damo Suzuki who made his first appearance on the Soundtracks album and then the first time singing with the band on here, it remains the perfect teamwork they pulled together to create a fucking masterpiece that would have made Johnny Rotten so goddamn happy. Tago Mago remains a favorite of mine in my taste of experimental music on my iPod and it still is to this day. It's not just an album, its an experimental ride that you can't get off and it goes off like a machine gun that bleeds for blood.

It starts off with the ambient spacey ballad jam session 7-minute suite, Paperhouse. It begins as a dance tune from the sounds of the late Michael Karoli's virtuoso guitar work while Jaki Liebezeit's drum pattern follows the guitar and Irmin Schmidt's electric piano styling and in 4/4 and 3/4. Then all of a sudden it becomes psychedelic freak-out that almost comes out of the Velvet Underground's first album as Damo sings quietly like an evil psychopath that hunts for its prey. Holger Czukay's bass line just goes up and down as he and Karoli's guitar work goes off the wall. And then goes back to the ballad again in the same time signature as it segues into the sinister proto sinister nuclear war hip-hop rocker Mushroom, which deals with a total annihilation. This time the band go evil as any Krautrock band could get into pasaging trouble than Faust. Jaki's drums starts off like a war-like gun that won't go off while Damo sings 'When I saw Mushroom head, I was born and I was dead' and then screaming 'I'm Gonna Get My Despair!' four times, it sounds so powerful and it gave me goosebumps hearing this song to set the scenery of a post-apocalyptic land of hell as it goes into Oh Yeah with a bomb going off and then becoming a free-for-all composition. With Holger's bass lines that become funky while Damo singing japanese backwards and Irmin's keyboards sounding like a horror soundtrack from the 1930's while Irmin is pounding the drums like a motherfucker with the bass, hi-hat, and snare as they do a jam session that would have made the Grateful Dead bow down on their knees over to the new masters of gods.

The next track which almost sounded very Bitches Brew meets A Tribute to Jack Johnson in an avant-garde way with the 18-minute composition Halleluhwah as Holger takes over with fusion bass line which almost could have been on any Funkadelic album that would have make Bootsy Collins proud over and sounding like a James Brown record that had gone awkward and strange as the synths come in to make it more bizarre as the drums go electronic while they go into the boxing ring to duke it out like big macho instruments battling to the death of drums vs. synths over who would win and who would be crowned champions. Aumgn which starts off as a reprise from Paperhouse left off as the 17-minute synth music of Tangerine Dream going wrong in an omish andy warhol homage that would have the Monks run like motherfuckers from Jaan's keyboards and Damo's screeching voice filling up the album that would be perfect for Ridley Scott's Alien. And then the last 5-minutes it becomes an African samba gone haywire as Irmin takes over to close it up to a dramatic climax that makes you jump in fear. And then it becomes an Atmospheric funeral arrangment turned into a darker rock technique of Kraftwerk's debut album in a mystrious cave for once again the Avant-Garde of 11-minutes that would get Stravinsky and Edgard Varese happy for joy on Peking O.

The acoustic jazz fusion crooner Bring Me Coffee or Tea closes it up as Damo sings very stonish as he and the band go off like masterminds as it ends with a T. All in all, Tago Mago remains strange, mysterious, whatever you want to call it, this is a must have for anyone who wants to get into the music of CAN.


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