AMON DÜÜL II: HIJACK (1974)
1) I Can't Wait (pt. 1 + pt. 2) / Mirror; 2) Traveller; 3) You're Not Alone; 4) Explode Like A Star; 5) Da Guadeloop; 6) Lonely Woman; 7) Liquid Whisper; 8) Archy The Robot.
This 1974 record is sometimes pointed out as the first truly «bad» Amon Düül II album, but simply scolding it does not really let one understand how the very same band that just came out with a string of nearly-infallible records would suddenly allow itself such a huge drop in quality. What happened here was an increase in the drift from «dense and chaotic» to «thin and well-ordered». Some of these compositions are, in fact, memorable upon first listen, a genuine rarity in Amon Düül history so far — and a clear sign of decline for those who hold the opinion that, in order to enjoy a piece of art, you have to work for it.
To tell the truth, there are a few misfires on Hijack; the most blatant being 'You're Not Alone', a «minimalistic folk» anthem that, for a whole seven minutes, is hanging on two acoustic power chords (plus vocals and strings, trumpets, and keyboards in a lumpy atmospheric mass in the back of the studio). It's a clear-cut gamble that I do not buy, and neither should anyone, I believe, who would, like me, think that the overall effect is somewhat Loureedian, and, consequently, decide that there is no reason to forcefully «admire» this stuff when it can be done similarly, but differently, without this Nazi-style torture-by-repetition.
Hardcore fans must have also scoffed at 'Da Guadeloop', the band's first (and, actually, most successful) flirtation with «proto-disco funk» — but, really, it works modestly well in its own context, and its descending strings riff, though not tremendously original in structure, has psychedelic overtones that usually distinguish the «art» variety of disco from its purely body-oriented versions. So maybe the track would feel more at home on an Isley Brothers record — but the question is, what home are we talking about?
Because at this point, Amon Düül II seem to be simply moving from one turf to another without any coherent plan in their head. In trying to switch from one image to another, they lost the road, and Hijack reflects the sophisticated tracks of their blunderings. The opening multi-part suite begins with a bizarre pop/rock hybrid that sounds like Eric Burdon guest-singing on an ELO record: creaky, nasty, angry vocals against a background of pop cellos and happy keyboards; then grows into some sort of sci-fi sexual fantasy; finally, becomes a catchy glam rocker with uplifting brass, gimmicky guitar solo effects and other savory indulgences. If there is a «plan» anywhere here, it must have been created five minutes before the actual recording.
Elsewhere, there is some dark brooding pop-rock with a «visionary» vocal delivery from Renate ('Traveller'); exhilarating space-pop that could have fit in on Nuggets ('Explode Like A Star'); a «lounge» rearrangement of Ornette Coleman's 'Lonely Woman', replete with vocals; and some lightweight tongue-in-cheek comedy with circus overtones to close the album ('Archy The Robot'). In short, anything goes, as long as it doesn't sound too much like everything else.
Frankly speaking, in 1974 Amon Düül II were still incapable of releasing a «bad» record. Their melodic senses were at an all-time high (since they only really started writing «normal» melodies circa 1972), and the outside musical world was not yet corrupted enough to taint their spirit (unless they'd intentionally choose the Osmonds as their major musical inspiration). This is a diverse, entertaining, catchy, well-played and arranged buncha solid 1970s tunes — don't expect a once-in-a-lifetime experience, just sit back and enjoy. And yes, there actually is some deeply perverse pleasure in being «commercially» (but still tastefully and exquisitely) entertained by one of the world's formerly weirdest and wildest bands. Thumbs up.
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