the greatest of all Can albums, the monumental double opus TAGO MAGO, which, although starting on safe ground, draws the listener in with a succession of even greater weirdness and invention. Side 1's trilogy of Paperhouse, Mushroom and Oh Yeah are often quoted as the most definitive Can, and I won't argue with that. Side 2's Halleluwah is a wonderful vehicle for Jaki's drums, played in a manner that only he seemed to know how, a churning relentless opus entwined with song elements and solos, and totally hypnotic with it. On LP 2 it all goes weird, with Aumgn starting as a very free-form abstract work, with bowed and scraping instruments, wonderful echoed wordless vocals from Irmin, joined by sliding electronic tones, with Jaki's manic drums eventually taking over in an extraordinary freak-out that hearkens back to? Actually, the only things that really hinted at this before were the An Electric Storm In Hell by White Noise and some of the most experimental Pink Floyd. I guess few people can believe Peking O. when they first hear it. Damo lets out some of the most agonising vocal sounds amidst a plethora of electronic and percussive effects. Weird and radical innovation, that still sounds bizarre 20 odd years on! That's the brilliance of Can. After this, the mellow Bring Me Coffee Or Tea brings us softly back to earth.
Thoughts upon hearing the CD of Tago Mago on headfones:
'Mushroom.' 'Paperhouse.' Where does this come from? What wild animal memory is being channeled here? Musically these guys were as skilled and sophisticated as anyone you can name, yet their sound expresses something just as primal and primordial as a bunch of Neandertals pounding on the cave walls with sabertooth-tiger bones while a woolly mammoth is bellowing nearby. A storm that nobody can identify. Urgent yet relaxed. It knows it's the real stuff, but it doesn't have to say so. It just IS. So deep in the pocket, it's stepping on all the loose change.
'Halleluwah'-- OH YEAH. Mother (Sky) heartbeat. Rising and falling. Pumping in the blood. Plugged into the earth, tapping into ancient energies that never found a name. Prehistoric funk. Your whole body and your mind want to be twisting like your hips. Grasping it by the instincts. Are the band playing it, or is it playing THEM?
The dog barking-- I forgot about that. A nice touch. My ears hurt now, but it's worth it. Nothing fancy, just the most basic tape effects. It all could have been done in a sweltering Trenchtown studio down the block from Augustus Pablo-- and would the Rastas have dug it? I bet. And just think of what else people might be able to hear in this music while under the influence of a huge spliff...!