Monday, 11 October 2010

Can - 'Monster Movie' (Spoon)

It just so happens that 'Father cannot yell' was the first Can song I ever heard, because it's also track 1 on the Cannibalism compilation CD which my university library loaned me during my freshman year. When that rapid, oscillating keyboard started and then another rapid, oscillating drum and bass lick came in to support it, things were never quite the same for me. Monster Movie is a curious one to review now because while all four songs have their strengths, I actually very rarely bother listening to it anymore. There's a lot of ideas here, and most importantly a rudimentary/primitive edge that sort of disappears gradually over the next few albums (is this in any way identifiable as the same band of Future Days?). One can't deny the blues/garage edge, but then Michael Karoli's guitar lines usually sound like hot, pointy daggers. There's a missing rhythm guitarist here, not that Czukay et al lacks the rhythmic skills -- but with the chug-chug chunkiness taken away, they've already found some sort of inner space. Monster Movie has the feel of being recorded in one take, with less focus on studio techniques than we'd later associate with this band. 'Mary, Mary so contrary' is the ballad, or at least a place for Malcolm Mooney to try to inject his warped bleatings with some passion. It has a lumbering movement that sounds like it evolved from some of the middle tracks on Delay 1968, but a bit more precise. 'Outside my door' is the shortest track and one that I like to play when DJing. It has a rambling electric blues feel, and a driving harmonic/violin/keyboard riff (what exactly is it?), and it's probably one of the more 'punk' tracks in the Can oeuvre. But really, the monolithic beast of Monster Movie is 'Yoo Doo Right', which is a sideways inversion of rock arrangement, complete with random/modular vocals. It's such a cliché by this point and I realised after about 9 minutes in -- I haven't actually listened to this song in years. Usually when I put on Monster Movie (which is not that often, sadly) I don't invest myself in the full 20:14 needed to get through 'Yoo Doo Right'. Which is a shame, because I think it's a remarkable track, even if you feel that it's overplayed by the end of it. This is really the earliest use of spacey jazzmopherics in Can's discography, and you can see how it signals ahead to 'Mother Sky'. I guess that's why it has the distinction of being covered by both the Geraldine Fibbers AND Hieronymous Firebrain. Parts drop in and out, but it never stops pulsing, and at times it's hard to distinguish Holger's bass guitar from Jaki's bass drum and/or toms. There's a dark sibilence on everything, and, well, Malcolm Mooney sounds like he's about 79 years old here. He croaks and rasps and there's really no one else who could have carried this song, even though he's seen as the "lesser" Can vocalist. 'Yoo Doo Right' was also on Cannibalism, bookending the collection with 'Father Cannot Yell' beginning it, so I went straight to Monster Movie as my starting point. Its legacy may merely be the first album of a legendary band, but not a legendary album in its own, but it still explodes in its own way.

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