Rundown Through the NEU! First Two Albums

When considering Krautrock as a whole, Neu! Are one of the first projects to pop into mind. This duo from Dusseldorf has been extremely influential for a very wide range of genres, from Ambient to Punk. The self titled debut album of theirs is acclaimed as a masterpiece of the genre, a perfect Krautrock model.

Neu! Have a very distinct and unique sound, which makes it question their position of being the most typical band of the genre. All the songs feature strong repetition, determined and solid rhythms that never fade out or change, accompanied by guitars with different effects, the only element that gives some sort of change during the course of a song. The atmosphere might be calm or more tense, peaceful or more chaotic, but this formula will never change, at least not for this album. As a consequence all of the songs are very stretched out, despite not being extremely long (the maximum length on this album for a track is about ten minutes).

The only problem about this album is that although well planned, executed, and everything else, it has no meat to it, it has only the spinal cord. Here we have an album that relies mostly on structure, and not specifically on the music. Then again, if this album did have more meat to it, it would have been a masterpiece, and probably the following albums would not have been so, unless the duo went towards a completely different direction. This album could have overshadowed everything else Neu! did in the future, but, thank God, it didn’t.

These are minor complaints that don’t at all affect the entertainment this album gives, when looking upon some of the songs here: “Hallogallo” is one of the best, most memorable and well constructed songs by the band, an instant classic that mixes robotic, futuristic atmospheres with deeply human emotions. Among the more lively songs, the dreadful and torturous “Negativland” has a creepy feel to it that isn’t easy to forget, while among the more experimental and mellower songs, the minimalistic “Lieber Honig”, the Ambient based tracks “Im Gluck” and “Sonderangebot”, not to forget the more optimistic sounding “Weissensee”, give a further hint of originality to the picture.

Neu!’s debut is no doubt an important release not only for the band but for Krautrock in general, to the point where this kind of value comes before the music itself. It is a very entertaining album nevertheless, essential listening for anyone who loves the genre.

Neu!’s sophomore effort is too many times underrated, as it is in my book on the same level as the acclaimed debut, and is essential for the forming od the project’s following album, “Neu! 75″. It’s ambition and boldness might turn off some people, or make them believe it’s only pretentiousness, because what we have here in a few moments is pure avant-garde.

Compared to the debut, it looks that “Neu! 2″ uses the same paradigm of the self titled but adds something to it: the sophomore is far more experimental, quirky, and straight-up weird. The rhythms are even more robotic and futuristic sounding, while the guitars are using even weirder effects (especially a lot of pitch change) and are even more abrasive in the lively moments, making Neu! one of the most influential bands for Punk and especially Post-Punk. Best way to describe this music seems to be Cyberpunk, in the end. But this is also groundbreaking for electronic music in general; many of the songs here are remixes, or little experimentations which are a result of messing around with old tapes. The use of soundscapes, sound collage and what else, has sure been used before, but never in such a context.

Cool and brave at the same time, “Neu! 2″ has however one flaw only: some parts are a little boring and way too toned down: the effects these few moments have aren’t really exhilarating and don’t really do anything to the album. These moments are just pure fillers, and fillers usually are something that don’t bother me.

This album is in fact at times hated for this reason, it is basically a collection of filler songs, each one of these different from the other: Examples of such variety are songs like “Lila Engel”, with it’s bizarre wild vocals, the drony “Super 16″, the energy sprint of “Neuschnee 78″, “Super 78″ and the final song “Super”, this last one the most Punkish song of the band. Finally, the dragging “Hallo Excentrico”, and the opening eleven minute track which possibly is the most serious one and the one that most resembles the masterpiece of the debut album “HalloGallo”.

“Neu! 2″ is one of the most fun Krautrock albums ever written; courageous, ultra-strange, uber exciting. It’s a shame that this album is sort of underrated compared to the other albums of the project, when it really maintains the same high qualities as the rest of their discography.

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