Tribute To Neu!
, May 21st, 2009 10:25
Who's to say at which point exactly it was all over for what once seemd to be the world's most eternal drumbeat? Some place the moment at Kasabian's first album of 2004, on which their watered-down yet testosterone-heavy take on the remit of turn-of-the-century Primal Scream was followed through with 'Reason Is Treason', which allied Klaus Dinger-esque tub-thumping to Oasis-indebted cod-psych drawling and club-footed drudgery. Others were more tolerant; they only blanched last year when Kaiser Chiefs' 'Never Miss A Beat' assaulted the airwaves: goonish, hamfisted T4 tomfoolery with a pulsing, half-inched krautrock undercarriage.
For all the manifold wonders of the first three Neu! Records, one fact has become uncomfortably apparent in the last five years — that they now appear to have joined an overused muso canon of reference points that's the very antithesis of their revolutionary spirit. Go to virtually any indie venue in 2009, and you'll more than likely stumble across a band using the motorik pulse as the bedrock for all manner of tuneage that eschews the expansive mindset and refreshing minimalism of its original incarnation, almost as if the band are ticking off a box on a list of fashionable signifiers without actually engaging with any of the many facets beyond the beat that make 'Hallogallo' the stratospheric monster it is.
Naturally, this ain't to say that derivative records are by their nature weak, or that it's worth acknowledging the kind of second-hand-record-store-employee attitude that oft involves itself whenever more than a handful of people get their hands on a certain benchmark of cool. After Ciccone Youth's ancient, vaguely amusing trifle 'Two Cool Rock Chicks Listening To Neu!', the first track on this compilation is Primal Scream's 'Shoot Speed/Kill Light', which still marks about as potent an argument for Record Collection Rock as you're likely to find. Guilty as charged, it's a pot pourri of self-consciously 'cool' reference points, but it's one that elevates itself above the context of its origins by means of chutzpah and freewheeling energy.
Yet as this collection unfolds, it becomes clear that the problem with it is not so much the quality of the music here, but the fact that someone thought this album needed to exist in the first place; as if the patronage of Noel Gallagher — a man whose frame of reference is so blighted he still can't as much as dabble with psychedelia without ripping off 'Tomorrow Never Knows' — was somehow more worthy of your hard-earned greenbacks than the timeless simplicity of the original records themselves. Oasis' appearance herein, following their own Dinger-assisted hit 'Shock Of The Lightning' (they got in there round about the same time as The Killers did with 'Spaceman'), is a passable enough throwaway jam, assuming you're willing to ignore the fact that it's still audibly the work of the same band that's done more to mire the rock music of the last twenty years in stultifying, boorish traditionalism than any other. Pretty much as close to an anti-Neu! as you're likely to find, in fact.
La Dusseldorf and Michael Rother themselves do make appearances here to bolster the notion's credibility, and although both bear the hallmarks of their creators, neither track catches them at their best. Elsewhere, the like of Holy Fuck, School Of Seven Bells and Fujiya and Miyagi offer pleasant enough yet always faintly inconsequential fare that would seem to suggest that the only way for the legacy of Neu! to go from here is a bland cocktail of reverential respect and experimental meandering. Worse still, Foals' contribution sounds as they're trying so hard to be ground-breaking and idealistic that their music suffocates under the strain, once again a whole universe away from the radiant, carefree wash of 'Fur Immer'. And this is before those old ghouls Kasabian sabotage the whole shebang with 'Stuntman', a drab baggy/disco crossover as out of place in this context as Feeder on the bill at a Faust gig.
For all the hoo-hah regarding The Horrors' recent Record Collection Rock opus 'Primary Colours', which marks another high-profile example of krautrock's assimilation into the indie du jour, one fact remains apparent: a slightly clumsy cavalcade of stolen shapes it may be, but there's a glee and joie de vivre to The Horrors' record that elevates them above the dreary, canonical realm that this record unfortunately dwells in. If the blinding new dawn of Neu!'s records is to mean anything in the 21st century, the folk to run with it will be those who take the spirit and adventure therein and use them as they see fit, not those doffing their hat or tailing the Dinger-beat down the autobahn. After all, Neu's motorik will still be cruising strong when Kasabian and Kaiser Chiefs have long since clapped out on the hard shoulder.
Listen to our own Neu! tribute: Motorikpop: A Secret History Spotified