The Wire

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The Mire: Tangents, threads and opinions from The Wire HQ

It's The Neu Style

Derek Walmsley

I can't be alone in noticing a subtle shift in the public appreciation of Krautrock. Press release after press release comes into The Wire HQ suggesting a group sounds like Can, Faust and Neu! – a ridiculous claim, as they hardly sounded alike in the first place. Nevertheless, the number of projects coping a Krautrock feel – The Horrors on their new album (after a pretty weak cover of Suicide recently – another act who are threatened with looming canonisation?), the Brand Neu! tribute album (title says it all), featuring Oasis, of all people (Neu! is "great tour bus music", I think Noel Gallagher was quoted as saying), and most bizarre of all, David Holmes. Add Portishead's Third into the mix, and it's almost ubiquitous.

Generally they take only the most basic common denominators of German experimental rock – the motorik rhythm, the spiralling guitars, but particularly, motorik rhythm. What's going on here? Krautrock has suddenly become a signifier of seriousness, the never-ending autobahn of Neu! a kind of aspiration to never-ending longevity, but also a melancholic nostalgia for when there were still roads to be built. Often these days, dropping into a motorik rhythm isn't the sign of innovation, but a lack of anything more interesting to do. It no longer conjures up wide-open possibilities, but an aesthetic retrenchment when there's nothing else they can bring to the table.

Of course, the last thing proper Krautrockers would have done these days is just hammer away at a long-overused rhythm. And just as I was typing this post, a press release just crossed my desk namechecking Cluster and Popul Vuh, too. Of course, one shouldn't blame the artists for such material, but it does suggest Krautrock has become a currency (in all senses) in music industry speak these days.