(All Album Reviews by friendselectric)
This albums seems to be thought of, at least to most of the general population, to be the last flash of greatness from Can. In fact, in a recent overview of them from Mojo, they only consider “Red Hot Indians” and “Vernal Equinox” to be any good, while calling the others bad attempts at glam. I'd take that as an insult. I guess I'm digressing a bit though.
The album's first track, “Full Moon on the Highway”, gets things started off in straight, rocking fashion, at least for Irmin, Jaki, Michael, and Holger. I've read somewhere that it sounds a bit like Buddy Holly psyched up. I guess I'd agree somewhat but in truth it is just a kick-ass rocker. Michael is playing some wicked fuzz and who knows what else guitar, they all join in on the chorus, and Holger sounds grungey with his bass. Irmin is also playing some cool pounding piano, which adds to the futurist '50s sound. Great stuff!
The second track, “Half Past One”, is funky with a reggae-style rhythm from Holger and Jaki. Michael plays well on acoustic and clean electric, and to me his violin sounds somewhat out of place. He also sounds as though he is trying to sing seductively, and that doesn't come too well. I think that these lyrics should've been sung in his native tongue, because the English is a bit disjointed. The small solo on the Farfisa electric piano from Irmin is alright, though it could've been better had he used a Hohner. It is my least favorite track on the album.
“Hunters and Collectors” is a kind of strange pop song, and I really don't know how to describe it. I've heard a few people describe Michael as sounding like a German Syd, but I don't see it. It is kind of boring musically, but it does have that great simplistic piano hook. It also has some funny lyrics, in particular the "thirty leather kids... and the dirty something talking to a cop". It is funny to my ears at least.
“Vernal Equinox” is the only track on here where they really tear it up, and it really rocks! It starts out as a sort of reprise of the preceding track with that memorable piano hook, but then Holger and Jaki kick it into gear with some heavy bass and crazy pounding. They really make you feel as though you are on the psychedelic motorik! Michael is right behind with his wailing leads. Irmin is providing some contrast with his scary sounding organ/synths and around the four minute mark he plays some strange rhythmic synth lines. At around the six minute mark it returns more or less to the beginning.
Up next, is “Red Hot Indians”, and it is sort of an anomaly for them. It starts out with some nice bongos/tabla? playing from Jaki and then, a first, some tenor sax from Olaf Kubler. It leads into some jazzy guitar from Michael Karoli and he sort of raps, stream of conciousness style. I think, that besides Ful Moon... this is his best vocal track. Irmin mainly plays an atmospheric role here and so does Holger. Then we have some nice sax soloing in both channels with Michael comping along.
The final track, “Unfinished”, is a sort of strange symphony. It isn't actually a sound collage, as Irmin has said that they created it from this "old dying organ" that he had, and when anyone went near it, it made strange sounds, It sounds kind of hellish, demonic in some way. There is a bit of percussion on here later, and also some reverbed guitar, but strictly atmospheric.
Overall it is a great album and probably the first truly song oriented from Can. Don't let you think they lost their experimental edge, they didn't at all! Michael's best axe work can be heard here too.
Before I start this review, let me warn you that Can is the only band where my adulation for their music approaches fanboy status. That said, I do try to review their albums as objectively as possible (keeping in mind that subjectivity factors into all my reviews, as well it should), and I believe that I generally succeed. Still, you would do well to be warned that I like Can more than most people, and so my ratings for some of their albums are higher than the common perception of those albums, and Landed is one of those albums.
Indeed, Landed is often seen as the start of Can’s downward spiral. Even I used to believe this until just recently, when I was awoken to the greatness of this album. I actually don’t believe Can had a downward spiral, since after the poor Flow Motion came the very good Saw Delight, followed by the reputedly atrocious Out of Reach and the reasonable Can (alternatively titled Inner Space). As you can see, there was no downward spiral, just a sinusoid with a decreasing amplitude, if you will.
Those albums after Landed are not of any consequence to this review, however, except Flow Motion, and even then, that album is only important because it shows that Landed was the last in a line of stellar albums by Can. Starting from their unreleased debut, Delay 1968 and continuing through the Damo Suzuki trilogy of masterpieces, and then the post-Damo albums Soon Over Babaluma and Landed, CAN could do no wrong. Not every album was perfect, but all were brilliant additions to any music collection, full of innovation, creativity, and pure rock.
As the last of these great albums, Landed is arguably the worst, not because of the musical quality necessarily (though in that sense, it is my least favorite of them), but because it just wasn’t as radically inventive as their earlier releases were (particularly those from the Damo era). Yes, Can is still doing new things, but at a far slower rate than on their earlier albums. So, while this album is very good, it doesn’t quite live up to the Can legacy in that sense. There’s no shame in that, however, because Can not at their best is still better than most bands wish they could be.
The biggest reason why this album is lambasted by some people is probably the inclusion of the short, quirky tracks. It’s all a matter of taste, really, but I quite like these songs, particularly “Half Past One.” They showcase Can’s sense of humor well, catching the band having some fun. They’re not masterpieces, and I’ll even go so far as to say that “Hunters and Collecters” is an unnecessary throwaway track, but these songs are, in general, good additions to the album. The real strength of Landed, however, are the two longer songs. Both are radically different from each other as well as quite unique within the Can catalogue.
“Vernal Equinox” is my favorite of the two (the other being “Unfinished”), but that’s only by a hair. Anyone who ever doubted the musicianship of Can even after hearing their previous releases will have their mind changed by this song. Jaki Liebezeit delivers stellar chops on the drums while Karoli lets her rip like never before on the guitar. This song overflows with unbridled energy, catching Can at one of their very finest moments. And then, in direct contrast, we have the eerie, slow “Unfinished,” a thirteen minute “song” based around an organ from Hell (according to Schmidt, the keyboardist, whenever anyone went near it, it emitted strange sounds). This song is not one of Can’s famous grooves (such as “Halleluwah” or “Mother Sky”), nor is it the epitome of beauty (as was “Bel Air”), but it is still among their best work, largely because it was something completely new for them. Also, arguably, it is Schmidt’s best contribution to the band, the one song where he really takes center stage above all the others.
I must be honest here. No, Landed is not going to be for everyone. However, if you are a fan of Can’s earlier albums and have a good sense of fun, you will find nothing (except “Hunters and Collecters”) to be disappointed in here. As an album, it is not the cohesive whole that their Damo era masterpieces were, but as a collection of songs, it really shines. I don’t give it the high rating of their prime releases, but it can’t go wrong with a nice B (excellent). Every Can fan needs this one. Non-Can fans should discover their earlier releases first, but after that, this is another great album to add to your collection.