Can Openers

Can's golden middle period kicked off in 1972 with Ege Bamyasi, their first U.S. release, which took a half-step back from the extremism of Tago Mago, offering instead the band's most cohesive and consciously organic work. Having hit its stride on such songs as "Vitamin C," "Soup," and "I'm So Green," Can settled back into a comfortable blend of surreal aural sketches and disciplined funk-based rhythms. The album even produced a European hit with "Spoon," which was used as the theme for a German TV show.

With 1973's Future Days, Can plunged deeply into an atmospheric sound. Synthesized pulsations, gull chirps, and watery rushes bathed such songs as "Spray," "Moonshake," and the twenty-minute "Bel Air" in a kind of spacy ether that precipitated the Moog-laden style of current groups such as Stereolab. With Suzuki leaving the group after Future Days to become a Jehovah's Witness, Karoli and Schmidt split what little vocal work appeared on 1974's Soon Over Babaluma, the last set in Mute's new series. Karoli also added a hefty dose of strings in songs such as the punchy "Dizzy, Dizzy" and "Splash," the latter a moment of free-jazz inspiration.

Can would release six more albums -- all currently out of print -- before disbanding in 1979: Landed (1975); Flow Motion and Unlimited Edition (both 1976); Saw Delight (1977); Out of Reach (1978); and Can (1979). A pair of compilations survey the group's output: Cannibalism 1 collects highlights from the current reissues; Cannibalism 2 draws from the deleted later sets, considered the band's weakest efforts, on which Czukay became more of a musical director than a player. In 1977, when former Traffic members Rosko Gee and Reebop Kwaku Baah joined on bass and percussion, respectively, the group lost its original flavor and focus, even venturing at times into disco. Before the original band reunited in 1989 for Rite Time, Czukay stayed busy collaborating with everyone from Eurythmics to Jah Wobble to David Sylvian to U2's the Edge, thus transmitting Can's legacy to a new generation of prog-inspired rockers who, in turn, have helped define the sounds we hear today. For modern-rock fans interested in those sounds, these Can reissues provide one more chance to visit the source.

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