Sunday, November 13, 2011

November 13: Can, "Oh Yeah"

Artist: Can
Song: "Oh Yeah"
Album: Tago Mago
Year: 1971

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN (will open in new tab)

Though many may try and claim such a title, when one inspects all of the bands that made their name throughout the final years of the 1960's and the first few of the 1970's, there are only a handful that in retrospect were truly fitting of the label "experimental."  While a wide range of bands certainly made massive forays into the blending of various styles, there were comparatively few that seemed to completely ignore every musical convention, creating a sound that was entirely new.  However, the reality that regardless of what era one looks to, in an overwhelming number of cases, the bands labeled as "experimental" are often unlistenable to a majority of music fans, and therefore somewhat defeat the very purpose of their own existence.  Then of course, there is the band Can; and when it comes down to it, there has never been another group that boasted as unique and unparalleled a sound as one finds in their music, and yet there was never any sacrificing of proper musical and pop structure.  That is to say, while the music of Can is unlike anything else in the entire history of recorded music, one cannot deny the almost infectious appeal that comes through on nearly every one of their songs.  There is no question that the band reached their creative apex all across their 1971 masterpiece, Tago Mago, and there may be no more definitive a song in the Can's catalog than the sonic perfection found in "Oh Yeah."

While one cannot overlook the music that runs throughout this seven-and-a-half minute epic, in many ways it's the overall mood of "Oh Yeah" that stands as its most enduring quality.  Though many other bands had found ways to make rock and roll "cool" again, the laid-back and relaxed tone that rings through on every note of this song is far beyond almost any other recorded effort.  Much of this sonic brilliance and overall mood comes from the light but perfectly toned guitar of Michael Karoli.  Bringing an ideal balance between the fuzz that largely defines the post-psychedelic sound and would become punk rock, there's no question that his performance on this song stands as one of the greatest of all-time.  The way that his tone is complimented by the soft, grooving bass from Holger Czukay enables “Oh Yeah"to quickly become nothing short of entrancing, and even the first time one hears this song, it can never be forgotten thereafter.  The way that the baseline seems to sway slowly from side to side and back and forth digs the entire band in deeper and deeper as the song continues, and there has rarely been as impressive an interplay between bass and guitar than one finds here.  The overall sound is finished off by drummer Jaki Liebezeit, and is within his playing where one can pick up influences from jazz, and yet he seems to play with the freedom that has rarely been matched elsewhere in the history of recorded music.

The way in which all of the sounds come together and move is a single unit is truly a uniquely hypnotic musical experience, and the vocals from the legendary Damo Suzuki become an absolutely stunning complement to the overall sound.  Though this may not be the finest performance he ever gave in his career, is the tone and mood that Suzuki lends to the track which makes it such a standout moment.  In many ways his performance on "Oh Yeah" stands as the definitive proof for the idea that it is often not what one is saying, but how one says it, that creates maximum impact on any recording.  Truth be told, for nearly his entire performance on this song, Suzuki is basically mumbling, and many would question whether there actually words to the track.  In fact, one of the popular schools of thought concerning the song argues that if he is in fact singing words, they are not in English.  Yet the band has released what they claim are the words to the song, and it is one of the most vivid and yet somewhat "avant" short poems of that entire generation.  In many ways, the fact that overall, the singing and lyrics are so "out there" become the reason why Can stand so far apart from any of their peers, as not only do they match the music perfectly, but they managed to push the song to mood that is far beyond nearly any other recording of the era.

All across the recorded catalog of Can, there are countless moments of musical brilliance that without question pushed the entire world of music forward.  To this point, one can easily argue that more so than any other band in history, Can perfectly defines the idea of a band that “was ahead of their time."  In fact, on many levels, the music of Can is still far beyond even the most modern recordings, and they are one of the few bands of all time that have never been matched.  Whether is due to the amazing orchestrations or the absolutely unique and completely captivating vocals, there simply never been a similar band, and it is much the reason that Can remained one of the most highly revered bands of all time.  With all this in mind, there is no question that Tago Mago  standard the band's finest musical achievement, and few can argue that it is not one of the most uniquely impressive albums in the entire history of recorded music.  Though many may point to some of their contemporaries as the "true visionaries" and "masters" of "experimental music," once one hears "Oh Yeah," all of these other recordings and bands are put into perspective.  The the fact that Can were able to be so amazingly creative in every aspect of their music, and yet never lose sight of an appealing musical structure is a testament to their genius, and they rarely sounded better than on their phenomenal 1971 song, "Oh Yeah."

No comments: