Tuesday, January 10, 2006
AMON DUUL 2 - Yeti 2LP / Dance of the Lemmings 2LP
's funny how sudden access to CD versions of two albums you've had sitting in your collection on vinyl for over ten years can immediately spawn a belated appreciation of music you probably should've given a better listen to a decade back. Does that make sense? I've had both of these monsters on vinyl collecting dust in the spare room for longer than I'd care to think, but since I've recently had access to the CD versions on the Repertoire label lying around at work, I've been giving them a good digital hiding during the day and finally pulled the vinyl copies out at home for another spin. Whhaaatt was I thinking dismissing the likes of Yeti and ...Lemmings??
"... a record I would consider one of the 10 best in the history of rock music, easily" - Jimmy Johnson reviewing Yeti, Forced Exposure catalogue #11, December-February '94/'95*
I wonder what Jimmy thinks of that statement now. I mean, really, was he just trying to sell the thing? Probably, and for that I can't fault him. I was all prepared to send off and purchase the darn thing when I stumbled across cheap second-hand LP copies of both out at some dorky suburban record barn soon thereafter. A handful of spins back home left me thoroughly unconvinced of their greatness. With the likes of Can, Faust and Guru Guru's monstrous UFO at my disposal, the likes of AD 2 couldn't compete. Most of all, they could never compete with the jawdropping greatness of Amon Duul 1.
Far more primitive than their brother/sister group, AD 1 were born from the same commune which spawned both outfits, though their deliciously unmusical racket, sounding like a Godz/Shaggs hybrid playing White Light/White Heat on repeat, was a godsend for a noise-hungered audio-douchebag like myself caught in the no-man's-land of dull indie rock which was the mid '90s. Funnily enough, I've got no-one to thank but this guy for getting me into them! Fugedabout Julian Cope, his Krautrocksampler tome gives AD 1 a serious bumrush, a slight on his thinking I still find hard to fathom. Psychedelic Underground, Collapsing and Disaster: three albums I'll stake my life on. All bought on CD 'round '96 or so (when they were first reissued; you can forget about ever finding vinyl copies of these Down Under. We Aussies simply didn't buy this stuff the first time around, and if we did we either hung onto them like gold or accidentally burnt them all in bong/incense/candle-fuelled house fires), their brilliance pushed AD 2's works further into irrelevance.
Until now, that is. Yeti and ...Lemmings, from 1970 and '71, respectively, have the Krautrock 101 pedigree down pat: double LP musical "excursions"; crazy, full-colour gatefold sleeves featuring all manner of drug-tinged images; a mixture of brief(ish), fully-realised songs and stoned improvisations to round things out. Again, I don't mean to contradict popular opinion for the sheer hell of it, but for my two cents, Dance of the Lemmings (which Cope hates!) is the stronger of the two. Yeti has the Hawkwind/Sabbath-style heaviness to its great advantage (and like Jimmy later noted in his review, the overbearing vocal bleed and guitar fuzz on "Eye-Shaking King" is a moment of brilliance), though the unrelenting thud of the guitars can get monotonous at times. ...Lemmings, on the other hand, which drifts closer towards acid-folk territory with a menu of chintzy special effects and electronic phasing at its disposal, allows the songs some room to breathe.
The entire second disc kills me. Dig those song titles, hippie: "The Marilyn Monroe-Memorial-Church", "Chewinggum Telegram", "Stumbling Over Melted Moonlight" and "Toxicological Whispering". Many a good folk has made the Velvets reference in regards to Amon Duul 2. Me, I don't hear it, at least not much of it. There's the very occassional White Light-style guitar chug, though if I was to throw a few names around - and you know I must - the cards I'd lay on the table would be early Hawkwind, Roxy Music (another band constantly compared to VU: I simply don't hear the comparison)'s first two LPs, the same for Pink Floyd and maybe even a little bit of Anthem of the Sun-era 'Dead. For the most part, however, both Yeti and ...Lemmings sound only like Amon Duul 2, and that's a fine thing. Phallus Dei (yes, the first; maybe another time), Yeti, Dance of the Lemmings: it's nice to know you again.
* - Why in the fuck do I know this quote? Why is this catalogue still sitting around my house? I'll ask my shrink.