Can: Unlimited Edition

December 7, 2010

Today’s roll: 1 – 5 – 13
Result: Unlimited Edition by Can.

The danger with odds’n’ends collections is they tend towards half-baked experiments and an overall incohesive listening experience. Aggravatingly, there’s usually at least one of the band’s essential tracks on the thing. Can‘s 1976 rarities compilation, Unlimited Edition, is no exception.

 Expanded from a fairly solid 1974 album titled Limited Edition, the ’76 version is an unwieldy beast which covers pretty much every aspect of the adventurous and influential krautrock band’s ever-evolving sound. That’s not necessarily a good thing from an “album” perspective.

The disc gathers up the band’s orphans from the years 1968-75 which might not be a problem if the songs were arranged purely chronologically, but they’re not. I haven’t been able to discern why. By 1975, Can were almost an entirely different band, with a different approach to making music.

It would be like compiling a Brian Eno retrospective and tossing in some early Roxy Music in the middle of his later ambient work. The contrast might be interesting, but it wouldn’t flow. Of course, in the technological golden age in which we gloriously languish, sequencing quibbles can be rectified by programming your CD player or, even more easily, editing out the bum tracks in iTunes (or your mediaplayer of choice).

Which is what I did.

For my money, it’s the early nuggets which make this disc worth while—my personal cut-off date for Can is 1972. “Doko E.”, “LH 702“, “Mother Upduff“, “Connection” and a handful of others are excellent examples of their early period art-rock (many of these are available on other, perhaps more rewarding, Can compilations).

The early material is not all gold though. The 18 minute “Cutaway“, a surprisingly pointless and unlistenable collage of sounds and grooves from 1968, didn’t make the cut. Nor did a sequence of short pieces call the “Ethnological Forgery Series” which, in the context of the album, serve to be no more than irritating clutter. They are also a little too accurately titled as they sound exactly like white guys committing world-music forgery. Though one appreciates honesty, it might have been a good idea to distract the listener from this flaw.

So, as it is with many b-sides and rareties collections, Unlimited Edition houses enough treasures for the dedicated Can aficionado to make it worth picking up (at least to rip a few gems off), but for casual or new listeners it’s far from essential.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: