Review: NEU! Vinyl Boxed Set

NEU! Vinyl Box
(Groenland Records 7/27/10)
Review by Adam Perry for The East Bay Express

The importance of what’s now known as the “Motorik” drumbeat cannot be understated when discussing the genius, and effectiveness, of the seminal German band NEU!, which formed out of Kraftwerk in early ‘70s. The “Motorik” beat—“Motorik” meaning literally “motor music” in German—was arguably stolen right from Mo Tucker’s incessant cadence on such Velvet Underground classics as “Waiting for the Man” and served as the backdrop for nearly every Krautrock group’s career. However, as evidenced on its just-released four-LP boxed set, NEU! was so much more than Krautrock, and drummer Klaus Dinger (also somewhat of a visionary guitarist and keyboardist) provided a hell of a lot more than the trademark Motorik beat.

First of all, NEU!’s eponymous 1972 debut was an instrumental shot heard—by music geeks in high places—around the world. Much of the avant-garde music David Bowie and Brian Eno made together and apart in the ‘70s (beginning with Low) was unabashedly NEU!-inspired, and shades of NEU!’s opening track “Hallogallo” can be heard everywhere from Radiohead’s post-OK Computer weirdness to the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Cherub Rock” to Phish’s more interesting improvisations.

Unlike Eno’s game-changing ambient recordings of the mid-to-late-‘70s, which were self-described as “furniture music” that simply becomes part of whatever room it’s being played in, the wicked instrumental experiments of NEU!’s first three albums powerfully suck the listener in. Utilizing the Motorik beat and cascading swells of guitar and synths, NEU! and NEU! 2 feature roughly the same Krautrock sound, and NEU! ’75 is a diverse and daring dual foray into beautiful ambient music and rough-edged Motorik-driven workouts that sound like a foreshadowing of punk.

Unfortunately, NEU! split in 1975 and has since only recorded one disappointing pop-oriented record, included in the new box as NEU! ’86. So we’re left to enjoy this long-awaited collection, and NEU! founding member Michael Rother’s current tour with Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley on drums.

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