Brand Neu!: Tribute To Neu

Less a reference for those who like Neu! and more a starting point to take you back to 1972.

There has been a bit of an audible internet groan leading up to the release of this compilation, particularly among the die-hard Neu! lovers. After all, the minimalist, German duo, don’t really sit too composite with Oasis fans and Kasabian followers, do they? One would imagine it would be like some kind of tribal wasteland between those who understand the ‘art’ involved in Neu!’s groundbreaking albums (yet un-remarked in their day) and the cocky swagger of the Mancunian faithful, shitting out second-rate albums since the mid-90s. But this is all theoretical, and thankfully ‘Brand Neu!’, allows a listen and learn sort of experience for those not too well-versed in the godfathers of math rock/krautrock and as the press release rightly claims, certainly the majority of rock genres you could care to name.

Less sacrilegious than the bloggers were weeping over, ‘Brand Neu!’ doesn’t dare to re-imagine Neu! songs by the more familiar faces of this decade’s artists, rather attempts to channel through the influences of said band in 13 tracks by different artists. In fact, there are 14 tracks on this compilation, but we can discount Ciccone (Sonic) Youth’s ‘Two Cool Rock Chicks Listening to Neu!’ as a work of pure homage, and a fitting way to open the album. Farris Badwan (the former Rotter) quaffed just the other week that “Originality is only really about how well you hide your influences”. In this respect the album doesn’t bode well for originality and was conceived too early to include the bleeding krautrock of The Horrors new material.

For where Foals will take a reverb-soaked sparse guitar line and lock their jaws into a repeat synth riff on ‘Titan Arum’, it is the very essence of Neu!’s locked groove approach. This expanding bubble bursts with their percussion midway through, much like ‘Heavy Water’ and the branding with the Neu! brush is something that hasn’t failed to make ‘Antidotes’ any less soul-elevating or sonically interesting. Alongside there are groups you would probably single out as likely recipients of the Neu! influence, such as Holy Fuck, Primal Scream and La Dusseldorf (the latter being the final recording pseudonym for Neu!’s Klaus Dinger).

Dissimilarly, the inclusion of Oasis’ ‘I Can See It Now’ does reflect the groups stray into less familiar waters, expansive psychedelia washes and Noel’s unmistakable though distorted vocals. And the psychedelic aspect is once more ingrained in Kasabian’s ‘Stuntman’, where a locked rhythm drives Tom Meighan to sing so much he’s hardly breathing.

Cornelius have extracted the jazz directions from the Neu! catalogue in ‘Wataridori’, a densely complicated mangle of drum machines, echoing guitar and electronic, bouncing squelches. The layers become more blurred as the song develops, and much like their predecessors they’re not shy of hitting the eight-minute marker. Likewise, a slow burner from Fujiya & Miyagi in the form of ‘Electro Karaoke’ presents the best of the new crop, with its warm synths and soft whisper, as well as School Of Seven Bells ‘Device fuer M’ – which is deceptively the track which most resembles Neu! in this mix. Where Pets With Pets contribution ‘We Only Found This Place’ is so electro-raving it would quite comfortably have gone onto ‘Digital Penetration Vol 1’, in the gap labelled ‘Letters and Colours pinching notes from Dandi Wind’.

In all this, the slight sore thumbs in the crowd of appropriators are LCD Soundsystem, purely for the levels, where for ‘Watch The Tapes’ Murphy’s vocal is given precedence above all the soundscapey, muffled bass rumblings. But the idea behind ‘Brand Neu!’ has this feeling like another side to the die, and one made from the same mould, with a different paint job. It’s quite a significant point for the whole compilation – less a reference for those who like Neu! and more a starting point to take you back to 1972 and maybe shining a light on the underside of some of today’s chart botherers.

Tags: Reviews, Album Reviews

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