If Can's Tago Mago hadn't completely blown me away, I wouldn't have given Ege Bamyasi a second listen. That's how much I hated it the first time I heard it. But I did listen again, and then I gave it a third listen, and a fourth... and I still hated it.
Eventually, I listened on some great headphones. I heard some nice production tricks and experimental ideas buried in the background. Nice production tricks do not make a great album.
After my sixth listen, I gave up and wrote this review. Needless to say, I'm unimpressed.
Tago Mago is a complicated and challenging album that undeniably rocks. It is one of the best CDs I've checked out from EPFL.
Ege Bamyasi sounds like its dumb little brother.
I'm surprised, because every review I've read says Ege Bamyasi is a great album, 5 stars, perfect introduction to Can, yada yada yada. I don't hear it, though. The band sounds disengaged and uninterested. The songs don't do anything or go anywhere. The improvisation is dull, and the composition is uninspired. It sounds as if Can couldn't decide between being accessible or experimental, so they compromised at some boring point in the middle.
"Sing Swan Song" has the same introspective naval-gazing blandness that characterizes too much of Radiohead's music from the past decade. "One More Night" sounds like a Fela Kuti jam with no fire or passion. "Soup" starts with another dull jam, then inexplicably disintegrates into five minutes of noise that has nothing to do with the first five minutes of the song. (For what it's worth, those five minutes of noise are the most interesting thing on the album, but even they devolve into the kind of generic free-form improvisation that marked the third-rate followers of people like Ornette Coleman and... well... Can.)
The last two songs, "Spoon" and "I'm So Green," are the best on the album. Both are very short and very poppy ("Spoon" was a top 40 hit in Germany), but what's really interesting is hearing how those two songs laid the foundation for the Madchester scene that popped up about 15 years later. It's easy to listen to "I'm So Green" and imagine the Stone Roses or Primal Scream playing it.
Great. Another essay by David Stubbs. This one is filled with gems like, "It was all part of Can's flight from occidental hegemony in rock music." Yeah, man... rock's occidental hegemony really pisses me off.
(For those of you who don't possess a Stubbsian vocabulary, an "occidental hegemony in rock music" basically means that all the rock bands of Europe and America were oppressing the poor, struggling rock bands from the rest of the world. Apparently, when Ege Bamyasi was recorded back in '72, Can was pissed off about the way the IFWR [the International Foundation of Western Rock] was secretly conspiring to crush all of the great Asian, African, and Eastern European rock bands that were on the verge of stripping the evil patriarchal Western Rock Gods of their power.)
Hey Stubbs: how's about I plant my foot in your occidental ass, motherfucker?
Anyway, the liner notes contain Stubbs' essay and a bunch of pictures of the band. The pictures are mildly interesting. The essay isn't. End of story.
Listen if you like: Radiohead's Kid A and/or Amnesiac, early Pink Floyd, Boris, experimental music that's not too experimental.
If it were food, it'd be: canned vegetables