bron schreef:The Sound of Yourself Listening
There is no group more mythical than Faust. I bought my first Faust record over 22 years ago, but I could not tell you the names of the group members off the top of my head. And I could not tell you the names of all their songs, though I know them all better than almost everything else in my record library. I saw them live on their legendary 1973 tour, but you could show me 10 photos of Krautrock musicians, and I could not pick out the five members of Faust.
Faust worked under a conscious veil of secrecy akin to, and inspiring to, San Francisco's The Residents. They were a conceptual band, and in isolation is how they were conceived. By the end of 1970, it became clear to Kurt Enders, an A&R man for German Polydor, that there was a place for the extreme new West German rock music in the international rock'n'roll sphere. But no-one had yet attempted an entirely new sound that broke all of the imported rules of the British and American scenes. He told this to the music journalist, Uwe Nettlebeck, who was extremely impressed and wanted to lead just such a project.
And so Faust was born - as cold and antiseptically as that. No, not really. It was a fabulous challenge and showed how, very occasionally, visionaries in record companies have been seen to get it absolutely right. Faust means 'fist', and a fist they were. Who the hell knows what their rehearsals were like in the Spring/Summer of 1971. Uwe Nettlebeck had spent Faust's large advance on building a studio at Wümme. This old converted schoolhouse, between Hamburg and Bremen, became their place of learning (and de-learning) a style which was fuzzy, funny and extremely uncommercial, yet busted out with weird hook lines and extraordinary sounds. But when they made their debut at the Musikhalle in Hamburg, the press hated it. The audience didn't know what to make of it, and so the whole public thing started very badly for them in their home country. And when the LP was released in late 1971, the sales were so poor as to be as legendary as the group would some day become. Some sources quote under one thousand records sold in the first months of Faust being released.
But Faust were good. In fact, they had made a very special first album. It just took time to get it. And when Polydor released Faust in Britain, the strongest appeal of their LP was that it was produced in clear vinyl, with a clear lyric sheet and a clear jacket, emblazoned with a fist in X-ray. The effect was dramatic. And at a time when a hype could kill a new band stone-dead, even John Peel wrote that when he first saw the album ". . . regardless of the music within, I had to acquire one." Peel played the album all the time, and my Krautrock mates and I would all bore ourselves stupid, re-enacting the beginning of it, whenever we hung out together or took the train into Birmingham. It was such a catchy bizarre sound. It sounded like music from some parallel universe suspended in time and played through the oldest radio.
Extremely overloaded over-recorded synthesizers and radio static begin the album as fractions of "All you Need is Love" and "Satisfaction" burst in, followed by a vocal calling from another room, then a pretty schoolhouse piano (of course!), into a very arranged Zappa-esque horn piece which comes over a bit Teutonic, a bit "Lumpy Gravy"-ish. Julian CopeAnd in two minutes of music Faust has taken you into the most inventive editing territory rock'n'roll has seen. Faust's unexpected success in Britain prompted them to focus themselves here, and the second LP, Faust So Far, was actually released here first. Again, it was a gimmick record - all black this time, with a black inner sleeve, raised black lettering on the record-label, and a set of 12"x12" prints that illustrated each song. But this album was somehow far more confident that the first one. So Far opens with my favorite ever Faust song. It's A Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl is a Temptations call and answer chorus over a boom-boom-boom-boom Mo Tucker one-chord trance-out. The rhythm guitar is on the same level as the Velvet Underground's "Live 1969", and the sax solo is my favorite on record. The production is clean and wants to be heard. It's the same throughout the album, and proved that Faust cut it as an un-straight pop band, the same way early Roxy Music did. Polydor also thought so, and released So Far as a single. The B-side, It's A Bit of A Pain reminds me of something from the third Velvet's album. So where were Faust coming from? Though their influences are ultimately unimportant, when a group is as original as Faust, it's impossible not to be overtly inquisitive as to how they came to this fabulous sound. And so to catch certain glimpses of other people's attitude in their music is to heave a sigh of relief that, yes, they were human after all.
The Clear Album
Listen to the Mothers of Invention's concert recordings from 1966 onwards and it's just trash. Musical bollocks of the most merely capable variety. Faust live? This is a different thing entirely. Like all the greatest Teutonic groups, Faust were brought up with middle-European dances and a staple of folk and tradition which was not 4/4. As a consequence, German bands could get far more complex than U.S. and British bands would ever dare and it still sounds rocking and crazy, rather than a bunch of Twee Smug Gits. Find an old Caravan,Man or Henry Cow LP for 50p somewhere and compare it with this. I'm joking of course.
Four years ago, I had dinner with a very successful journalist who told me that he'd had to review Love's "Forever Changes" for Q Magazine now that it was available on CD. Wow, I shouted. You lucky fucker! Yes, he said. But I know it so well I couldn't summon up any real energy, so I just gave it 8/10. "Forever Changes" is a dark achievement. Were it an ancient text or a document it would be hidden from view and spoken of in obscure circles, But because it operates through the medium of Pop Music, it gets tarts like said Journalist giving it 8/10. This is a classic case of a man sleepwalking through life.
So now I have to set to and tell you about the first Faust album, and I will not let you down. For a start, its a big 10/10. No, make that 11/10. It defies categories. It's a horrible noise. It's cut-ups to the Nth degree. Part of it is just like Frank Zappa's "Lumpy Gravy" (a funny bit, thank the Goddess.) It is super-gimmicky, syrupy in the weirdest places, and never outstays its welcome. But probably the strangest thing of all is just how good Faust sound when they are creating on the spot moments of rock'n'roll on the epic Miss Fortune. Here they transcend all studio trickery and here they come alive.