Tago Mago by Can is universally considered one of the most influential Krautrock albums. Can was all German except the singer Damo Suzuki from Japan. He would sing in multiple languages and propelled the band into improvisation, noise, political commentary, and experimental rock. Michael Karoli plays guitar and his style inspired thousands of musicians. Jacki Liebezeit is a legendary drummer and organist Holger Schuring. Can was critical for the development of krautrock and pushed music into new frontiers. “Hallelujah” is a classic song.
Tago Mago is a cathartic album about war and the suffering of nuclear war. “Paperhouse, Mushroom, Oh Yeah, and Hallelujah” are the songs which made this album legendary. There is a long section of dark deep emotional release on this album. In this section Damo is screaming until his voice is gone, it reminds me of Butoh. Butoh was a form of dance theater with grotesque costumes white face paint and faces which scream in pain. This was developed in response to the horror of the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan. Through the screams and yells serves as an expressive tool for showing the horrors of war and the depth of suffering.
“When I saw a mushroom head, when I saw the skies are red, I was born and I was dead!” This is a reference to atomic warheads exploding in Japan. However, music critics continue to believe it’s about psychedelic mushrooms. A bomb can be heard going off and the landscape being burned and sizzling at the end of “Mushroom”. “Oh Yeah” features reverse vocals and echoing tones very reminiscent of a song from Radiohead’s Kid A and ends with another killer solo.
The B side has one 20 minute track “Hallelujah”, first off this has nothing to do with Leonard Cohen, secondly, this song rocks and is likely the greatest Krautrock song. It begins with an upbeat rock tone Damo singing to offbeat guitars and dancy bass lines. The song moves into a rhythmic section creating a nearly electronic dance music feel well before anything like that existed. The song becomes pure magic emerging into a trance guiding the listener through incredible grooves and psychedelic sounds.
In case, you felt that the Tago Mago was not far-out enough for true kruatrock allow “Aumgn” to set those concerns aside. The track opens with a bow scraping strings, a high pitched screech, and echoing hum. Dark bowed bass calls forth the demons as the voice continues to chant with deep heavy echo. The drums pick up and the vocalist screams and screams and screams and screams, again and again until the track ends in a fever of high pitch organ and intense rapid percussion and bass.
“Peking O.” The vocals are on heavy echo and Damo goes back into his fierce screaming. These sections are hard to listen to. The song turns to a cosmic sound of weird vibrato organ and percussive vocals. Drum machines playing blast beats with soft harmonized vocals over the top creating a dizzying effect. The song goes back into full experimental mode with vocal yells high pitched screeching on repeat, intense bass lines making an electronic chaos.
“Bring Me Coffee Or Tea” is a welcome relief from the chaos which began in “Aumgn” and finished in “Perking O.”. The vocals are back to signing and melodies, the guitars and organ are making mellow tones the drums are complex but soft. The organ and the guitar organically texture and move together in a way that cannot be rehearsed.
Article by: Temple Rose
I write about music, music gear, art, science, psychology, yoga and holistic health. See my other blogs at http://thepsychrock.com, https://psychgear.wordpress.com, https://transpersonalspirit.wordpress.com. I am a contributor to Sic Magazine (http://www.sicmagazine.net) and gigsoupmusic.com. I am a musician in the band Black Satori (https://blacksatori.wordpress.com).