AMON DÜÜL II: PYRAGONY X (1976)
1) Flower Of The Orient; 2) Merlin; 3) Crystal Hexagram; 4) Lost In Space; 5) Sally The Seducer; 6) Telly Vision; 7) The Only Thing; 8) Capuccino.
Alas, some good things are not meant to last. No sooner had the band seemed to stabilize its possible future direction than destabilization hit once more, and carried away Renate, along with several other band members. A significant part of the «core», including Karrer, Weinzierl, and Leopold, remained, but they had to recruit newcomers — Klaus Ebert on bass and Stefan Zauner on keyboards — and with the newcomers came further changes, such as the band's reputation could not stand. And it crumbled.
I used to hate this record; these days, it sounds sort of okay, a slight, harmless pop-rock album with nothing particularly atrocious about it. Unless the very idea that a band like Amon Düül II could debase itself to playing barroom-style boogies and country-rock already rubs one in the wrong way, Pyragony X is listenable. If you are stranded on a desert island with one CD and thirty eight minutes worth of battery load in your player, that is.
Much to the band's honour, there is no attempt here to openly suck up to any of the then-popular genres: no stabs at «Eurodisco», and no signs whatsoever that anyone in the band could even hear of the punk or New Wave idiom. Everything is recorded strictly according to «old school rock» values (for Amon Düül II, that's a good thing). The music is modestly diverse: a little Eastern mystique on 'Flower Of The Orient', a little piano vaudeville mixed with astral effects on 'Lost In Space', some blues-boogie on 'Merlin', etc. In short, they continue delving the catchy song mine, only this time, there is no high-brow or tongue-in-cheek concept to wrap it all in.
But where Made In Germany was alternately inventive, unpredictable, hilarious, tender, or moody, Pyragony X is consistently mediocre. The Eastern bits on 'Flower Of The Orient' do not begin to compete with the likes of 'Kashmir', and Weinzierl's assured, but not too thought-out ecstatic «Southern rock» soloing on 'Merlin' and 'The Only Thing' is no match for a Dickey Betts. And that's just the playing; the melodies are equally uninspiring.
One exception is the instrumental 'Crystal Hexagram' — its slow, time-taking buildup to the two electric guitar climaxes also owes a lot to the Allmans, but it is a tasteful and emotional guitar showcase on its own, and even if it adds nothing to the formal annals of guitar-based music, its several well-placed and well-paced lines are still the highlight of this dull record. On the other end of the pole are short and pointless «stunts», such as 'Sally The Seducer' (rather a pathetic title for a band who used to come up with 'Restless Skylight Transistor Child') and 'Telly Vision' — a very flat rant against commercialism, oddly appearing on the band's most «commercial» album so far (and whoever came up with the horrid line "Ronald McDonald say, 'Big Mac to you!'" needs to be dragged out into the street and force-fed twenty pounds of burgers).
But most of the pole's actual length is devoid of any kind of charge, a gray mass of musical neutrons that heralds the end of Amon Düül II as a musical force to be reckoned with. Maybe it is not exactly «pure agony», as the title humbly implies, but it is definitely some kind of agony. 'Crystal Hexagram' would look nice as the coda to a comprehensive career overview from 1969 to 1976; the rest just screams for a non-violent, but firm thumbs down. Too bad.
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