We have a tradition in my house where, every January 1st, I play the three “classic” NEU! albums (Neu!, Neu! 2 and Neu! ’75) one after the other. Okay, so we didn’t have that tradition until 3 days ago but I think I’ll be doing it again next year, so Happy NEU Year everyone!
NEU! (exclamation mark compulsory) are not my favourite “Krautrock” or German “kosmische” band – that would be Can, closely followed by Amon Duul and Faust – but there is a purity, a single-mindedness, one might even say a niggardliness, about NEU! which it’s hard not to admire. That and their massive influence on Hawkwind! (cue excuse to embed a Hawkwind! track) best evidenced on the latter’s Opa Loka from Warrior on the Edge of Time.
Formed in 1971 by drummer Klaus Dinger and guitarist Michael Rother, both of early Kraftwerk, NEU! (NEW!) took their name from advertising and their self-styled “motorik” sound, with its endless 4/4 groove, from the imagined soundtrack to a long, boring car journey, such as that embarked on by the miserable DJ Robert in Chris Petit’s seminal Radio On (see relevant post in Cinema section).
The band’s first album (Neu!) included apparently endless motorik tracks such as the much-covered Hallogallo as well as bizarre soundscapes like Sonderangebot, which, again, seems to have been a massive influence on Michael Moorcock-era Hawkwind.
Good though Neu! is, the second album (Neu! 2) just shades it for me because it has the smile-inducing chutzpah to fill side 2 of the vinyl with speeded-up and slowed-down versions of the songs on side 1. Although when I say “songs”, they are really just long, hypnotic drum and guitar tracks which sound like speeded-up/slowed-down versions of the “songs” on the first album.
Neu! ’75 represents a watershed (a pinnacle even!) for the band. It has vocals! There’s still quite a lot of ambient noodling to get through! but the track Hero, which kicks off Side 2, is proto-punk! and influenced not only Johnny Rotten! (who also dug Hawkwind!) but also one David Bowie! who promptly decamped to Berlin and made an album called…. Heroes!
Tired of being an early, German version of the White Stripes/Black Keys, Rother and Dinger! then fell out, but not before they’d influenced a generation of synth pop bands! for which they can never be forgiven! Yes, it’s time to reclaim 1970s German rock from the Thatcherite New Romantiks! and give it back to the long hairs from whom it sprang! Vorsprung durch Technik! Die Hippies kommen beck!
N is also for….
Nancy & Lee! (Lee Hazelwood wrote These Boots Were Made For Walkin’ and Nancy Sinatra sang it, but it’s not on this album. On this album you only get Some Velvet Morning, Summer Wine, Sundown, Sand and Elusive Dreams…. Poor you!)
The Natural Four! (has an amazingly cheesy cover with the band in matching but differently coloured jumpsuits and platform shoes, plus songs by Leroy Hutson, Richie Tufo etc. What more can you ask for?)
Willie Nelson! Teatro (as if to prove that Willie can speak Spanish. It’s easy, folks. Una cerveza, compadre. Dos tapas. Tu eres muy simpatico. Let’s go to the teatro.)
Ted Nugent! Double Live Gonzo (yeah, dumb, sexist, racist, animal-hunting, gun-toting, Trump-voting Ted Nugent. I saw him play most of this album at Hammersmith Odeon and it was awesome! But still, somebody put him out of our misery, please!)