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Can: Landed

April 16, 2009
tags: ,

CanI’ve been digging back through some of the red-headed stepchildren of the Can discography recently. Can’s earlier albums are all classics, but the general consensus seems to be that they took a serious nosedive in quality following 1974’s Soon Over Babaluma.

Tago Mago and Ege Bamyasi are two of my favourite albums from the 70s, so surely any band responsible for those two works of wild brilliance couldn’t lose all their magic within the space of just five years, right? Especially since the core of the band remained unchanged, at least to begin with (with the exception of Damo Suzuki, who left after Future Days, and whose manic presence was already missed on Soon Over Babaluma). Fuck you `General Consensus’, I’m forming my own opinion!

Landed, from 1975 has been described as Can’s `Glam Rock’ album; to be honest, I think only the opening track Full Moon on the Highway fits that description. It comes out of the gate as a pretty straightforward rock boogie, with only occasional nods of the head towards the usual fearless experimentation expected from this band. Its not a bad track, by any means, but you would hope for so much more. I was left waiting for the twist that was going to turn everything inside out but it never came. Half Past One is much more interesting; Michael Karoli’s guitar combines chattering funk with flamenco-ish touches, over a typically precise, tightly coiled rhythmic backdrop from Holger and Jaki. Occasional violin snakes its way along too, and Irmin Schmidt digs deep into his box of tricks to provide some excellent bubbling organ textures and metallic chimes.

Third track Hunters and Collectors could almost be David Bowie, if it weren’t for the profoundly uncharismatic vocals, which leave the song feeling rather flat. It is though redeemed by the excellent instrumental breaks, to the point where you wonder why they bothered with the vocal sections in the first place. Michael Karoli gets to break out his fuzz pedal on Vernal Equinox, although the effect is not really beneficial, as this beefed-up sound and bluesy wailing is far more conventionally psychedelic and less interesting than his usual brittle and wirey soloing, and the track is far better when he steps off the gas and lets the others come to the fore. Red Hot Indians sounds like `Can go tropicalia’, which personally I could do without; I’d rather go to Gilbero Gil or Caetano Veloso for my sunny Brazilian pop than a bunch of Germans, thanks very much. The album closes with Untitled, a freeform exploration in the vein of Aumgn from Tago Mago, and while it doesn’t quite reach the heady heights of that track, its always good when Can head to the outer limits.

All in all, Landed is a bit patchy, but is definitely a worthwhile listen with some moments of pure brilliance. Had it been recorded by almost any other band I would no doubt be full of effusive praise for it, but Can set themselves such a high standard with their previous albums that it can’t help but disappoint a little. It is certainly worth more than the 2 stars it has on Allmusic.

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