by Chad Van Wagner
Essentially, a DVD issue of the video content from The Can Box from a few years ago (with the added bonus of an 80-minute compilation of manager Hildegard Schmidt’s home movies of her husband Irmin’s band), Can DVD is still necessary for even casual fans.
Also containing a documentary on the band, as well as Peter Przygodda’s film Can: Free Concert, it’s fascinating to watch how this most iconographic of Krautrock bands works together. The four (occasionally five) members of the band worked off of pure chemistry (much of their catalog was improvised and edited later), and that chemistry is evident from the word go. Drummer Jaki Liebezeit alone is a sight to behold. Much is made of his “mechanical” style, and it truly does seem at times that you’re watching a machine, rather than a man (albeit a machine that can drum like a man possessed). Add that to the hipster sleaze of keyboardist Irmin Schmidt, the slightly boyish charm (and Chevy Chase clone looks) of late guitarist Michael Karoli, and… Holger Czukay. I could go on for pages about Czukay’s oddball presence throughout this entire package. And that’s not even mentioning the two most famous vocalists in the entire Krautrock movement, Malcolm Mooney and Damo Suzuki.
It’s this compendium of towering personalities that makes the resulting films so fascinating to watch. Surely one of the most surreal sights to ever grace television screens was Can’s performance of “I Want More” on a German sitcom, complete with awkward slapstick and disco dancing, gold lamé-wearing Farrah Fawcett clones. I’m still having a tough time processing that one.
True, the German band’s awkward English occasionally makes them come off as pretentious, and some of the extras (a minute-long film by Brian Eno, text biographies) are nothing you’ll mess with more than once. But Can DVD does what every band documentary hopes to do: It makes a longtime fan rediscover the albums he thought he knew inside out.