Can – Monster Movie

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It kicks off with ‘Father Cannot Yell’, every moment of the Mark E
Smith back catalogue crushed into seven glorious minutes, only with
clearer vocals. There are whole albums by lesser bands in there –
soft jazzy shuffling drums being stroked one second while vocalist
Malcolm Mooney pants over the top, then he’s chanting the seemingly
meaningless lyric like a Fall tribute band, moments before everything
drops into a mass of VU feedback and an artless guitar solo appears
from nowhere, messy chords and fuzzy single notes smearing themselves
over the vinyl like an artist’s paints.

And that’s only track one.
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‘Mary, Mary So Contrary’ is the closest thing ‘Monster Movie’ gets to
a conventional song, but even then I’ve always thought it sounded as
though Mooney chose the initial lyric at the very second his mic was
turned on, a few words found in a book of children’s nursery rhymes
lying in the corner of the studio, maybe. Then he lets his
drug-fuelled imagination loose over the remaining minutes of hypnotic
backing, allowing panic to flood his voice as he repeats Mary’s name,
before falling silent with over two minutes of the track to go and
leaving it to the rest of the band bring the track to a conclusion.

I always think it’s cause for concern when the melody follows an
instrument as closely as that of ‘Outside my door’ follows the
harmonica line. The least track on the album, but that’s not a
massive insult on an LP like this one, and Mooney’s freak-out at the
end is enjoyably off the wall.
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‘Yoo Doo Right’ occupies the entire second side of the album but in
every other way it’s the centrepiece. Famously edited down from a six
hour jam, it starts with all the brooding menace of an early Nick Cave
track, then Michael Karoli picks out a simple guitar line, Mooney
begins to murmur what appears to be the words of a love letter (‘I’m
in love with my girl’) counterposed with advice to himself (‘Man, you
gotta move on’) and we’re off. It’s fair to say that you can drop the
stylus anywhere in the twenty minutes of this track and – for the
first time – whatever plays will be recognisably Can. If ‘Father
Cannot Yell’ is most obviously influenced by garage, pycach and the
Velvet Underground, their influunce can be heard, to lesser impact, on
the other tracks on side 1. Not so on ‘Yoo Doo Right’; even when what
sounds like a traditional guitar solo appears from nowhere a few
minutes in, it doesn’t feel like a ‘proper’ rock move. It’s not
layered into the track, it’s laid over the top, like an intruder, with
Mooney wailing beneath. And when the entire track descends into a
single a drumstick tapping against a drum rim, with Mooney intoning
the lyric in a monotonous drone, then builds back up, with bass, then
drums then guitar rejoining, we’re off and running – this is the
moment Can are born.”

 

Review by Stuart Douglas

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