TWO MEMBERS studied under avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen; another was a jazz drummer who loved Stax soul; their youngest member was a gifted guitarist and violinist; their vocalist was a free spirit from Japan.
They were Can, one of the Big Three, alongside Kraftwerk and NEU!, in West Germany's extraordinary Krautrock scene of the 1970s - arguably the most daring, experimental, and visionary of all rock movements.
Founded in Cologne by classical students Holger Czukay and Irmin Schmidt, they were turned onto rock by The Beatles and The Velvet Underground. Although early singles show Can experimenting with jazz and Pink Floyd-esque sounds, they found their signature style quickly - a stripped back approach where space was emphasised to allow each instrument room to breath; Michael Karoli's guitar finding the perfect lick, riff, or lead lines to complement the other players; and everything driven by Jacki Leibzeit's groove filled drum patterns.
By 1971-72, with singles like 'Hallejuwah', 'Mushroom Head', 'Vitamin C', and 'Moonshake', Can delivered their definitive sound, inspiring PiL, Joy Division, and David Bowie; laid the grounds for ambient, trip hop, and other forms of electronica; and cast a shadow which still looms large over indie and alternative rock today. However that run of brilliance could not be sustained, and with vocalist Damo Suzuki's departure, the magic began to dissipate.
Come the mid 1970s Can were still weird, but instead of sounding timeless, they now sounded of their time. In the late seventies, they succumbed to disco fever - 'I Want More' matching Bo Diddley guitar with disco's four to the floor beat, giving the band its only hit single. By the end, rocked up versions of 'Silent Night' and (pun probably intended ) 'Can Can' they became a rival James Last Orchestra - a cringeworthy end to a magnificent band.
This is a warts and all collection - die hards need it, but the curious should check out its first half - minds will be expanded and blown.