[midlife 150] #106: can “vitamin c”
January 13, 2011
Can was the original ‘post’ band. They (core members Irmin Schmidt, Holger Czukay, Michael Karoli and Jaki Liebezeit) made post-punk more than five years before even punk was invented, and post-rock while the overblown pomposity of its embarrassing uncle, prog, was but a twinkle in its glitter-shadowed eye.
As such the Cologne-based outfit sit just behind the Velvet Underground and Sly & the Family Stone, and alongside Krautrock peers like Neu! and Faust, as one of the most influential rock bands of all time. In fact – like most successful innovations – their sound was born of a potent brew of other, diverse influences: the two aforementioned American bands (experienced by Schmidt during an epiphanal visit to New York City in 1968) and the new European music of Stockhausen and Boulez.
Arguments rage over which is the definitive Can album/track. I don’t really want to join that particular debate, but – for its Pied Piper-like ability to drag you, body shaking in rhythmic convulsions, towards blissful, isolated insanity – Vitamin C, from fourth album Ege Bamyasi (“Aegean okra”), hits the spot for me.
The song recounts the circumstances of a girl at odds with the materiality of her rich family’s life, all the while losing her own essence (her vitamin C). Either that or it merely represents the order in which words happened to tumble from vocalist/lyricist Damo Suzuki‘s freed mind in the studio.
It doesn’t matter, as the cryptic words merely add texture to the track’s underpinning: Liebezeit’s formidable groove. It is both propulsive – harnessing and releasing energy like a sentient rubber ball – and complex, belying the drummer’s jazz background. It is also inescapable, at least until it dissolves inside the swarm of bleeps and slithers at the track’s end.
Vitamin C was also released as a single backed with I’m So Green, Ege Bamyasi‘s other impossibly funky miniature and a close second for this chart entry. You won’t find a more liberating or funkier seven minutes of music this side of the Atlantic anywhere.
This review is part of close to 94‘s [midlife 150] series, which counts down favourite music 1970-2009.