Album Reviews

Various – Brand NEU!

(Feraltone) UK release date: 18 May 2009

Brand NEU! Krautrock. Is it only now getting a full acclamation for its lasting influence? Certainly Can are getting plenty of plaudits for their legacy, and from this compilation it would seem the pop world is also waking up to NEU!, as they always liked to be styled.

That said, it’s one thing acknowledging a band’s influence, but quite another choosing a compilation that gives accurate examples to back you up, or even feelings that approach those you get from listening to the band’s music. In trying to do so, Feraltone throw up a few surprises – such as Oasis. Having offered the slightly ominous opinion that NEU! are “proper tour bus music”, I Can See It Now, from Don’t Believe The Truth, offers a healthy blast of noise once its leaden beat gets going.

Elsewhere La Düsseldorf make much enjoyment with their wig out on Sketch 1_08. Foals, too, make a positive impact with Tatan Arum, a carefully spun web of loops that finds them in typically dreamy mood. Primal Scream, on the other hand, go for something rather more brash in their approach of more outright noise, Shoot Speed / Kill Light the closing track from the ferocious Xtrmntr album.

Most appropriately chosen is the first track, Sonic Youth‘s homage realised by the two cool rock chicks having a conversation that uncannily reveals the pitfalls of this sort of compilation, when it talks about the potential of having “someone else fuck up what you’ve done”.

Happily that proves largely not to be the case. On the electronic side of the fence the tracks are well chosen, too, whether in the urgency of James Murphy’s vocal in LCD Soundsystem‘s Watch The Tapes or the more subtle, hushed approach Fujiya & Miyagi do so well in Electro Karaoke. And then there’s Holy Fuck, as ever a thrilling blend of noise and riffery.

The biggest complaint about Brand NEU! isn’t the choice of music, though – rather it’s the lack of exclusives, as all of the music here bar one track is available elsewhere. The one that isn’t, School Of Seven Bells‘ typically blissful cover of Device Für M, is very good – but not worth an album’s outlay on its own.

If however, you’re interested in learning a bit more about this increasingly influential part of rock music history, Brand NEU! is a good place to start – just as long as you don’t take it too much on face value, and promise to go and seek out the music of its creators immediately afterwards.

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