Can – The Lost Tapes (Mute)
By Scott Creney
Hey, didn’t I just write about Can like six months ago?
Well yeah, but this is fucking Can we’re talking about. Sure, The Lost Tapes is stuff they found in the vault, but it isn’t just a bunch of outtakes or alternate versions (though there is a little of that), it’s a bargain priced three-CD box comprised of songs that for one reason or another simply never came out.
It’s as good as anything they ever released, including that album I wrote about six months ago.
It’s got a generously annotated booklet with all kinds of beautiful stories about learning to love and appreciate your comrades. The moral of the story is (and this is a lesson that should be learned by every rock band) FILL YOUR GROUP WITH GENIUSES AND THEN SUBJUGATE YOUR EGO TO THE NEEDS OF THE GROUP. It’s one of those rules of rock that Everett forgot. [Uh-huh. That’s what made The Deadnotes so great – Ed]
I already wrote three pages of amphetamine-inspired poetry/nonsense, beauty/drivel, genius/typographical errors about Can in that Tago Mago review. I’m all out of drugs so I’m just going to tell you a story this time.
When I was a young high-schooler, barely old enough to drive, my favorite band in the world was The Smiths. I have NEVER obsessed over a band’s music the way I did over The Smiths — right band, right time in my life, etc. Anyway, around this time I would have recurring dreams where I’d find myself in a record store, or a drug store, or even a grocery store, and while browsing through The Smiths section I would come across these Smiths or Morrissey albums that I didn’t even know existed. They had appropriate covers and titles and tracklists and everything (none of which I can remember now, of course). My dream self would become unbearably excited and start bouncing up and down in place — this actually happened in real life when I came across the first Modern Lovers album, out of print at the time, in an El Cajon, California thrift store a few years later.
The Lost Tapes is like that dream coming true. Only better, because it’s Can (and also because most unreleased Smiths stuff is terrible).
It’s the sound of four (or five) people thinking. It’s some of the most alive music ever created. It makes a compelling case that rock/jazz/blues/funk/dance/alternative/avant-garde should all be thrown in the scrap heap because Can did rock better than the best of rock, and they did jazz better than the best of jazz, and they did dance better than the best of dance, and they did avant-garde better than the best of… you get the idea.
However, they did not do ABBA better than ABBA. One day there will be a band that adds McCartney-esque melodic genius to Can style dynamics and rhythm. And that band will probably be criminally ignored by the media because they don’t have the right PR firm or booking agent. But that’s OK. As The Lost Tapes proves, history is the great leveler. Fashion is fashion, music is music; the two rarely intersect. But Can will be relevant a thousand years from now, and would have been relevant a thousand years ago, in a way that The Smiths — to say nothing of Passion Pit — could never be.
Six months ago I wrote that Can music was a universe. Hell, it’s way better than that. It’s a better version of our universe, one more engaged with its surroundings, one where people communicate without words, and one that has learned to coexist among darkness and light. To spend your money on anything else would be a betrayal of our planet.