Song of the Day: Can – Vitamin C

Jordan Posner Recalls: First of all, if you’re a fan of Radiohead or Fugazi you have Can to thank for paving the way. Some of Can’s stuff veers toward the progressive, while other tracks have a decidedly punk bent. Mind you, Can’s heyday (early-mid 70’s) predates both most progressive rock and punk acts by a good few years, so it’s important to place this German group in the proper context. Can has existed in one form or another since 1968, influenced in a profound way by the seedy New York drone of the Velvet Underground. Though keyboardist Irmin Schmidt and guitarist/bassist Holger Czukay have always formed the core of Can, the group truly entered its legendary period when it recruited Japanese vocalist Kenji “Damo” Suzuki. Suzuki’s unintelligible and mostly improvised lyrics served as a perfect companion to the group’s loose improvisational style (which they called “collective spontaneous composition”) and Can released three of their best albums during this fertile period:

Tago Mago (1971)

Ege Bamyasi (1972)

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Future Days (1974)

On all these records, Can used an unorthodox process of sampling their improvisational jams in the studio and then editing them down into the finished product. The result is a series of exciting, genre hopping, sometimes maddening tracks that are bursting at the seams with musical ideas. Each of Can’s most memorable tracks (most of which top the 6-minute mark) comes with a new crop of phrases or riffs that firmly lodge themselves at the center of your brain upon repeated listens. That being said, each song is completely and utterly inaccessible for the purposes of classic rock radio. The closest thing Can ever had to a “hit” was 1972’s “Vitamin C” (From Ege Bamyasi). The song is relatively short, has simple and easy-to-remember lyrics and features a great bass line. Yet, there’s a dark sort of magic running throughout. There’s some sort of crackling energy in Suzuki’s interplay with the band that made Thom Yorke, Mark E. Smith and Stephen Malkmus take notice.

Check out this track, and then go ahead and listen to their “big three” albums three times each. If you’re not singing their praises as I have, you get your money back for this free website.

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