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Hardcore 1980's R.E.M. fans consider the band's major label work on Warner Bros since 1988's Green to be a sellout, and therefore of less merit than the band's earlier indie albums. But because the earliest R.E.M. material I'm familiar with was Automatic for the People I don't hold to that mindset, yet 1991's Out of Time does indeed stink of commercialism.

I like the album's acoustic pop sound, led by Buck's mandolin, but the majority of the material is so shallow that Out of Time isn't a satisfying listen. While Stipe's lyrics fit the music, they often verge on banal, so the only classic song on the album is also the darkest lyrically ... "Losing My Religion" is one of R.E.M.'s finest recordings.

The next best thing on Out of Time is the other single, "Shiny, Happy People", (with The B-52s' Kate Pierson on backing vocals). The song is just as hokey as the rest of the album, but at least it has a catchy guitar line. "Country Feedback" is half decent too, but it's just an inferior prototype of New Adventures in Hi-Fi's "E-Bow the Letter".

Otherwise, Out of Time is inconsequential ... if it didn't contain "Losing My Religion" it would be a strong candidate for a 2 star rating. And if "Losing My Religion" was on Automatic for the People, and "Everybody Hurts" on Out of Time, that would've made for a piece-of-crap album and an absolute classic.

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by Reviewer: Fyfeopedia

Posted: Wednesday 28th Jun 2017 9:37 PM
Recent album review
NEU! - NEU! (1972)

An extract from NEU! was featured in a BBC documentary about Krautrock on YouTube, which prompted me to check the album out. Unsurprisingly perhaps, that extract turned out to be from the best track on the album - the 5 star "Hallogallo" - as for the rest, it's mostly a case of *meh*.

NEU! were a duo who were originally part of an early Kraftwerk line-up, but then left to pursue their own muse. And - having been born in the immediate aftermath of the total destruction of Germany in World War II, they - along with other Krautrockers - saw themselves as being at year zero, where everything had to be built again from scratch, including music.

So - as discussed at length in the documentary - German bands such as Kraftwerk, Faust, Amon Duul, Tangerine Dream, and Can, all pursued an entirely avant-garde approach to music, partly to make a total break from their country's then-recent Fascist past, and partly out of a desire to reject American / British rock, which they saw as 'colonizing' their culture. And NEU! follow exactly the same musical trajectory as their peers.

The result is that what was called 'Krautrock' by the British music press is indeed quite distinct from anything else happening in the late-60's / early-70's music scene, and would go on to be influential on later developments in rock, such as Bowie's 'Berlin' trilogy, Eno's ambient works, and 'drone-rock', along with laying the groundwork for synth-based music and electronica, particularly the Sheffield electro scene and later, Trance.

As for the album itself, listeners by and large tend to either love it or hate it, though aversion to some of its more experimental tracks is pretty well universal. The opening 10-minute instrumental "Hallogallo" (5 stars) is generally viewed favourably though, the music bringing to mind similar compositions by the London-based Third Ear Band from around the same time, and its hypnotic rhythms were subsequently echoed by New York synth-minimalists Suicide in the mid-70's.

However, the Tangerine Dream-ish "Sonderangebot" essentially sounds like a jet aircraft flying around inside an empty oil drum for 4+minutes, all very echoey and 'experimental' perhaps, but not in any sense musical (1 star). It's the sort of thing that was very much in vogue at the time though, thanks to its pronounced stereo effects, this at a time when stereo was a relatively new development in audio, and consequently such effects had a novelty factor that appealed to people wanting to show off their spanking new stereo equipment.

That segues into the more listenable 7-minute "Weissensee", a psychedelic / instrumental jam featuring wah-wah guitar backed by a mid-range drone and slow-paced percussion. I'm sure that its distinctly 'drugged-up' vibe would've appealed to the longhair / hippy scene still around in 1972.

As for the 4½ star "Im Gluck" ... that sounds like it was recorded in a rowboat - or at least, that's how it starts off - with the sounds of oars creaking and water splashing, which then gives way to a languid drone, quite pleasant - rather like some of Pink Floyd's more 'pastoral' numbers.

Similarly, "Negativland" opens with sound effects, and - by way of contrast with the previous track - this time it's the unpleasantly jarring sound of a jackhammer. Beyond that, what sounds very similar to the earlier "Sonderangebot" resurfaces, except this time accompanied by a simple bass guitar motif along with steady plodding percussion, all of which briefly accelerates around the halfway point. I guess "Negativland" could be viewed as 1960's-style 'psychedelic trance'.

As for the closing "Lieber Honig", it's musical drivel, plain and simple, just random notes accompanied by a childlike voice singing to itself, a track presumably made-up on-the-spot simply to pad Side Two out to album-length.

Whilst NEU! was an influential album, one that was part of the foundations of electro, and also Eno's ambient albums (for as is well-known, he relocated to Berlin to immerse himself in Germany's avant-garde music scene), the album isn't in itself of any great merit musically. The opening "Hallogallo" is universally acclaimed and rightfully so, and that's certainly worth checking out, but methinks the rest of the album is a little too left-field to have wide appeal.

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by Reviewer: bluemoon

Posted: Wednesday 28th Jun 2017 11:14 PM
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