Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Future Days

Released 1973 on UA
Reviewed by maningrey, 01/03/2012ce

My first introduction to Can was the excellent but haphazard "Anthology". Fortunately Can are such a distinctive band that it still all seemed to fit together but I always found myself returning to the tracks "Future Days" and "Moonshake" so eventually I bought the album "Future Days" itself.

For me it has always been the peak of Can's music and for a long time I only really enjoyed this and "Ege Bamyasi" from their extensive catalogue. There is a definite split in Can's music between the jagged Velvet's inspired one chord garage drones of the Malcolm Mooney era and the more liquid and original Damo Suzuki music. From Damo's first track with the band "Don't Turn the Light On, Leave Me Alone" you can feel the change in feel as the band mold their music around Damo's voice. With Mooney it often felt as if they were being dragged in his wake such was the strength of his personality. Damo is no less striking but much less declamatory, the tone of his musings blend with the guitar and organ in such as way that with the liberal doses of reverb and delay which cloak the music often it is difficult to say who is creating which melody within a tune.

The title track has been a perennial favourite, it has always felt like a perfect piece, just the right length with not a note out of place. Can with Damo were the only "progressive" band who managed to be both excellent players but also write extremely catchy melodies. The sounds are always extremely organic, no flashy excessive soloing, even though Michael Karoli plays extensively he always plays intricate little tunes which Damo plays off and vice versa. The magic of Can is how they subvert certain prog rock cliches with unexpected twists. The mesmerizing samba rhythms master drummer Jaki Liebezeit weaves beneath "Future Days" is as silky as a Tom Jobim ballad yet also propulsive and muscular. Think of any other prog or Cosmic rock band who would use this groove? Oddly Liebezeit's playing reminds me of Fela Kuti's drummer Tony Allen in that it is jazz influenced but accented in a way that is neither rock, jazz or funk while combining the grooves of each genre.

The next track Splash is my least favourite from the album and feels like it could have come off Can's next album, the Damo less "Soon Over Babaluma" where the jazzy improvisation was removed from the discipline of working with Damo's songs and became indulgent. However being Can it is never less than fascinating, on any other album it would be a stand out track.

It is interesting that Julian hates the second side of "Future Days" calling the oceanic 20 minutes of "Bel Air", a total "mess". However I think that this track perfectly demonstrates the perfect balance Can had with Damo. Yes there are self indulgent parts and yes it could haver lost a few minutes here and there but Damo is always there singing his strange incantations whenever it looks like the band has drifted into ambient doodling. Remove Damo and yes it would be a mess, infact I often see "Soon Over Babaluma" as a series of "Bel Airs" without the tunes. Like any long track it demands your attention, but if you look at "Bel Air" as a series of short pop songs which blend together rather than one intimidating slog the beauty unfolds itself, every time Damo sings it is a new song.

I see "Bel Air" as a follow up to Jimi Hendrix's track "1983" with it's washes of sound which never fall into ambient banality due to the delicacy and sensitivity of the playing and the tough beats which anchor them. There are parallels in the mood to John Martyn's album "Solid Air" which was also released in 1973 with it's blend of electric piano and reverbed twanging guitar. However where Martyn finds sorrow and darkness in this mix Can find a massive neutral charge, removed from any identifiable human emotion, more like standing on a beach in the sun as a cool breeze brushes your face. Not quite elation, not quite pensive.It is this aspect which means this is an album you can listen to in any mood and find yourself in a different place. Only a later album like "Loveless" by My Bloody Valentine would combine this level of the avant and the pop in one sound although again the prevailing mood on MBV's masterwork was intense nostalgia and pain.

Before this monster track comes Can's sweetest pop song. Moonshake has the same sexy samba groove as the title track but this time the Jobim in the beat is given free reign. A cousin to "One More Night" from "Ege Bamyasi" and directly reused by Can themselves on the later "Saw Delight" for the soundalike "Don't Say No", this is a propulsive stomper which is both funky and weird with the odd scratches and bleeps which take the place of a solo in the middle. Can's disco side would coem to full fruition on their one UK hit, the facile but fun "I Want More".

I can see why this album is often under rated compared to the more obviously rocking Mooney era "Monster Movie" and the Damo led "Tago Mago". It is possible that "Future Days" could be perceived as being a little bland after their previous fire breathing sturm und drang. However I feel that many of the early Can tracks are too close to The Velvet Underground and The Mothers in style and simply lacking in the narcotic melody they would find on Ege Bamyasi" and "Future Days". Despite the ferocity of Malcolm Mooney I find much of the garage rock Can boring in the same way I find much of the proto punk critics darlings like The Stooges tedious. If you are going to have no tune then go all the way and sound like "Negativland" by Neu! I would suggest that at least half of "Tago Mago" and "Monster Movie" are more of a "mess" than "Bel Air"!

Of their later albums after "Future Days" I dislike "Soon Over Babluma" and "Landed" (their worst album by some way) but enjoy "Flow Motion" for it's odd dub experiments and poppy disco and enjoy the first album with new members Rosko Gee and Rebop Kwaku Baahchaz, "Saw Delight" which has a sunny around the world in a day vibe.

Thanks for reading

@London School of Sound

Reviews Index