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Various Artists – Brand NEU!

Various Artists - Brand Neu!

Feraltone, 2009
[rating:6.5/10]

“My current new favourite German band of all time. Proper tour bus music. Spiritual!” — Noel Gallagher, Oasis.

And with that quote my stomach churns. Proper tour bus music indeed. 70’s German electronic pioneers NEU! (pronounced Noy) were once the domain of the free-thinking artists and noise-makers – the Sonic Youths and Stereolabs of the world if you will, but it seems that NEU! is the new IKEA. If you look around at your favourite band, you’re bound to see some NEU! lurking in the corner.

It’s somewhat ironic that Ciccone Youth’ “Two Cool Rock Chicks Listening to NEU!” heralds the first mainstream appearance of the band appears in popular music (it’s debatable that Ciccone Youth is popular music, but sneaking into the mainstream nonetheless) since the 70’s. As the track goes, it’s no incentive to seek out NEU!, but historically its place on this compilation is relevant if not a little superfluous.

Aside from a couple of ‘what the fuck’ moments, Brand Neu! objectively attempts to bring together modern artists by this innovative German two-piece. There are the obvious direct influence inclusions of Fujiya & Miyagi, Primal Scream. Both acts try the same thing from either side of the musical spectrum. With “Shoot Speed/Kill Light” Primal Scream amplify the action, a pulsing rock track driven by a metronomic NEU! heartbeat while Fujiya & Miyagi remain true to the NEU! aesthetic on “Electro Karaoke” and Canadians Holy Fuck come as close as possible to covering NEU! without actually covering NEU! on “Super Inuit”.

LCD Soundsystem plead guilty with the hypno-drone of “Stuntman”, James Murphy offering a “well, duh!“. School of Seven Bells offer up a new track in the form of “Device Fuer M”, subtly angling away from the omnipresent syncopated beats and driving basslines elsewhere to deliver something evocative and original. Of great interest to fans will be the inclusion unreleased recordings by NEU! members Michael Rother with his tribute to NEU! producer Conny Plank, and Klaus Dinger, the latter under the moniker of La Duesseldorf, with “Sketch 01_08”  one of the last pieces of music he was involved in before his untimely death in March 2008.

Elsewhere Oasis deliver a directionless, stoned jam and Kasabian, well, I’ll be honest and say I just skipped that one. The only band that showed any real presence on this compilation is hitherto unknown Melbourne band Pets With Pets. Seemingly out of place amongst the big name acts, they sound like a cross between the Tornadoes and post-punk Melbourne act Whirlywirld, exuding a confident free spirit, both shambolic and soaring. Apologies for the look of disbelief, boys, when you insisted you were on the compilation…

Given the hodge-podge nature of this compilation, it’s only bound to find favour with NEU! completists and rightly so. Those curious to find out more would be best directed to Neu! 1 or Neu! 2, seek your answers there and then make your own connections. Perhaps in time a better thoughtout and well-defined tribute will appear to properly recognise the ground-breaking talent and incredible influence these Krautrockers have had on musicians over the last thirty years.

About the Author:

Craig Smith
Continues his music photography and writing at sonicdocument.com

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