Holger Czukay - Movies!

by Sean Hewson Rating:5 Release Date:2016-06-04

Movies was Holger Czukay's second album. Coming out in 1979, it was his first after leaving Can. At the time the NME put it at number 5 in their Albums Of The Year list. In 1985 Sounds put it in their All Time Top 100 Albums list (at 98). It also features Can's awesome drummer, Jaki Liebezeit, throughout and Michael Karoli and Irmin Schmidt on Oh Lord, Give Us More Money (late period Can member, Rebop Kwaku Baah, also appears on Cool In The Pool). Holger Czukay, like Kim Deal, is one of the great re-inventors of bass playing - snatching it back from the show-offs and making it cool again. Unfortunately, I don't think that this album's very good.

Cool In The Pool ('Let's get hot on the dancing spot, then let's get cool in the pool') starts off promisingly with a nice, Avant-Funk guitar riff. But almost immediately there is an overabundance of ideas. Proggy horns, samples/tape loops and little stabs of every conceivable instrument come and go. Holger Czukay's singing is reminiscent of something quirky from the Canterbury Scene. The song and sound overall are quite close to the New York Avant-Garde/Prog/Disco/Punk sound (Talking Heads/Eno/Fred Frith/Arthur Russel/Bill Laswell). Which is all great, but it's a bit silly. Every single idea is indulged, no matter how daft. I must admit to be being fairly humourless when it comes to music. I don't like 'wacky' or 'quirky', and I don't like jokey lyrics. The 13 minute Oh Lord, Give Us More Money is, for the most part, better. It features lots of lead guitar from Can's Michael Karoli with Holger Czukay's bass weaving around it. Occasionally you can also hear some classic Jaki Liebezeit shuffles in the background but there are just too many samples and tape loops drowing him out. As a whole, it's a bit unfocussed. Persian Love is built around a light, reggae rhythm track and a snippet of what I'm presuming is Persian music. There's a lot of noodling on this song - noodling keyboards, sounding like Joe Meek's I Hear A New World; and noodling guitar, played very high up the neck. The final track, Hollywood Symphony, is a 15 minute test of endurance. Again, it's very noodly and a little confused. The volume levels are distracting. Snatches of keyboard or guitar often burst in, drowning everything else out.

When done well (John Cale's organ on Sister Ray) this can be one of the greatest things on Earth, but that's not the case here. Underneath it all, there is some great bass playing from Czukay and, after 8 minutes, it does start to pick up and becomes quite an odd Prog/Funk tune for a few minutes. But then the loud, annoying keyboards come back. This reissue also comes with a bonus version of Cool In The Pool where most (not all) of the vocals have been removed. This improves it immeasurably but it also does highlight some of the more 'playful' choices of instrumentation - really weird brass, Jerry Garcia-like lead guitar. I have the feeling that underneath it all there is a brilliant drums, bass and rhythm guitar track that has been buried by an over-active imagination.

Holger Czukay is undoubtedly both a great man and a very important figure in music. And Movies features some great players and a few great performances. But it's not a great album. There's too much fiddling and too many ideas, a lot of which would be executed more successfully by Brian Eno and David Byrne on My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts.

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