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4 May 2009

Amon Düül II - 'Dance of the Lemmings' (United Artists)

Sometimes I think 1971 was a high point in the cultural ooze, though I'm fully aware that we always fetishize the impossible, and this blogspotter was not yet alive so I guess I'm guilty as charged. Maybe '71 smelled really bad or everyone was itchy, but I think there was something good in the water because first-rate records and films kept shooting out like inchoate meteors. We've had to skip Yeti and jump to Amon Düül II's masterpiece, Dance of the Lemmings. The band is honed down to only four people (since Phallus Dei's covershot suggests it was once quite the party) and they've never been further away from their roots (see our review of This is Amon Düül for more on that). Side 1 is given to the 'Syntelman's March of the Roaring Seventies' suite, and the Krautbuzz rarely has hit peaks like this. 'Pull Down your Mask' is just one of the four parts but the one most memorable for its haunting creepy vocals.  Until the end, it's relatively genteel and clean-sounding, yet still trippy, psychedelic, and whathaveyou.  At some point in my salad days I figured out that just turning on distortion and volume does not alone make music 'heavy'; weight comes from the spaces between the notes, the timings, and that which cannot by automated.  I think 'Syntelman's March of the Roaring Seventies' taught me the same thing about psychedelic music.  It's postively barren and sparse when compared to today's hordes of knob-turning  noise kiddies,  but more 10th dimensional and mindbending than most 'psychedelic' dross.   And it's a bad trip, indeed.   It's like the band has reinvented itself from  prog nerdlers into utter bummermongers, and nothing could be more perfect to usher in the decade of bad vibes that was to follow. Even the back cover, with scary goat-skull-tree-man on a comfy sofa, screams 'stay the fuck away'. And the scythe-wielding Amon Düül logo is rendered in a way that would make even the most hardened suburban metalheads skip a breath and force out a "cool". But can they keep it up over the course of a double album? Of course they can, and they do, and it's the second side where we get the walls of burning solder, sawing folk fiddles and klassic kosmische edges.  Plus, for a few bars they kick this perfect hip-hop beat.   The third side is a soundtrack that is obv. more improvised than the first half but still has some insane movement.  There's a lot of piano and some swell bass drones; it all feels a bit edited together, but that's okay cause I'm not a purist about those things.  This may be the closest to 'jazz' we've seen from AD2, though it's really space-jazz.   Bonus points for the records being split into sides 1+4, and 2+3 -- a testament to the olden days of those record flipping contraptions.  I believe we could press a 2xLP like that today and call it a "throwback".  Side four brings us back to the 'songs'.  This side is instrumental, in the classic rock rifftastic arterial way.  Some weird editing at play:  halfway through, one track fades out on a flange-heavy drumbeat and then after a moment of silence, fades back in with the same beat.   A bit of conceptual brilliance or the only way to cover a mistake?  Also, is it just a bit stereotypical to make side 3 your "extended jam" side and return to songs at the end?  Though maybe this defined the trend.  I feel like I should say something about lemmings, who are thought of in popular culture as suicide-prone little creatures and thus an appropriate metaphor for the dark vibes of this album.  But actually, lemmings have no such inclinations  - this is just some murderous lies spread by the Disney corporation.  And I've also made it through this whole review without mentioning the amazing spaceship gatefold, complete with primitive PDA and space-elephant.


  1. the verbum "skip" should NEVER be connected to the lp-name yeti! besides this blasphemic misstepping the rest of the text is fine though.

  2. Dude, I know! The only reason I had to skip it is because I don't own it on vinyl! Believe me, I'd love a copy ...