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Can - Monster Movie CD (album) cover





3.80 | 322 ratings

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3 stars The frustrating thing about this album is that, in theory, it should be more or less as enjoyable as the other albums from Can's early period, since it shows the band already in its modal jam shtick, and since, at least for a little while, all four tracks seem pretty cool. Heck, at first glance it's not even necessarily obvious that the band is suffering that much with Malcom Mooney on vocals instead of Damo Suzuki.

Unfortunately, there are a few things that pop out on further listens that have come to irritate me. The first is a realization of just how little actually happens in these tracks. There are some blistering moments from Karoli, yes, but they occur at a far lesser frequency than they would on subsequent albums, and I'm really hard-pressed to think of many especially interesting moments, technically or atmospherically, that come out of Schmidt's keyboards. Furthermore, while the rhythm section certainly seems perfectly solid on this album, there's never a time on the album where I can step back and go, "Wow, now that is the Can rhythm section in action." In short, the group seems like a decent jam band here, but it's difficult for me to convince myself that they're that much more than that with this album.

This problem, as well as the little issue of Mooney as vocalist, manifests itself most openly and plainly in the 20-minute "Yoo Doo Right." At first, it seems like a pretty cool track; Mooney bellows out a small set of lines with passion, the band holds steady with a fairly hypnotic pattern behind him, and it seems like this is a classic in the making. But then it starts to become clear that the band, after laying a solid foundation, is going absolutely nowhere with this jam, and when you look at the clock and realize there are 15 minutes left in the track after seeing it's going nowhere, that makes for some rather discomforting listening. Furthermore, while Mooney's lines seem kinda hypnotic and resonant at first, there comes a point after a while where all he's doing is softly creaking them out in the background over and over and over again, as if he's not even paying attention to the rest of the band and isn't muttering to help the track but instead is muttering only because he can't get himself to stop. It's not enjoyable, and it's not interesting, so why should I want to listen to this track in its entirety again? I sure can't think of a reason.

The three tracks on the first side noticably better, fortunately, though still not quite at the "Classic Can" level. "Father Cannot Yell" features Karoli's and Czukay's fiercest, loudest, most pumping and best attacks on the album, and even Mooney sounds ok for the most part, even kinda helping things out whenever he climaxes into his "and the father hasn't been born yet hasn't been born yet" shtick. There's also that cool part where he starts making wordless "uh" vocal sounds in rhythm to the rest of the band, helping the band in kind of the same way Suzuki would later on. Yup, if there's a reason to buy Monster Movie, it's gotta be "Father Cannot Yell."

The band's cover of "Mary, Mary So Contrary," meanwhile, is rather lovely, if overlong. There's no real catharsis to be gained from it (unlike on much of the next album), and Mooney yells too much as the track goes on, but Karoli's guitar wails have a painful beauty all their own, so dismissing the track altogether would seem like a mistake to me. And finally, the side-closer, "Outside My Door," kinda sounds like what Barrett-era Pink Floyd would sound like if they decided to bring in a harmonica as a primary instrument, and except for Mooney's ugliness at the end, it's a nice piece of astral garage-rock (!).

Still, positives aside (and there are quite a few of them, to be sure), this is a really rough beginning for "The Can" (as they called themselves at this point). Some actually consider this to be the band's peak, but I can't buy that notion at all; there are simply not enough strong manifestations of the traits that would make Can so renowned, and there aren't enough quality "supplemental" traits to make up for the lack of the primary ones. If you're getting into Can's early period, this should be the last album you pick up. It's historically significant, yes, but not that much more.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |


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