CAN: OUT OF REACH (1978)
1) Serpentine; 2) Pauper's Daughter And I; 3) November; 4) Seven Days Awake; 5) Give Me No Roses; 6) Like Inobe God; 7) One More Day.
Well, so much for any further extensions of good will. The problem here is not even the total absence of Czukay — that is more of a consequence than a cause. The problem is that Can simply lost the magic, now confined to but a few thin strands among a sea of unfocused, pointless confusion. As late as Flow Motion and Saw Delight, Can were still Can, and their grooves pulsated with that classic Can mystique, sounding like sincerely performed religious rituals for communication with the spirits. At first, the addition of Rosko Gee and Rebop did not hurt this mystique too much — on the contrary, they «Africanized» the music to just the right degree. But as their role in their band expanded, and Holger's decreased, out came the inevitable: Can began a quick drift towards becoming just a normal jam band.
Out Of Reach has about as much excitement to it as a generic second-rate fusion album, even if it is not fusion (most of the tunes are funk- and disco-based). The players get into position and begin jamming, without bothering to come up with an emotionally resonant theme. The result is ʽSerpentineʼ, probably the most disappointing album opener on a Can record ever — other than the tightness (but not ferocious tightness) of the rhythm section, there is nothing here to be recommended. The instrumental mix is messy, with no instrument ever taking the risk of stepping into the limelight and all keyboard and guitar solos playing at low volume, muffled and timid, so that the track never achieves any transcendental heights. Stuff like ʽNovemberʼ and ʽSeven Days Awakeʼ is only marginally better, with shriller, more harshly distorted Karoli solos that still do not rise to the ecstasy of days gone by, and essentially sound like Can on autopilot — let alone the fact that Rosko is constantly trying to sneak a disco bassline in ʽNovemberʼ for no apparent reason other than, well, playing what everybody else was playing at the time.
In addition to that, Rosko also steps forward as a songwriter, contributing two vocal numbers: ʽPauper's Daughter And Iʼ is a dull disco number, only slightly elevated by Karoli's psychedelic guitar solo, and ʽGive Me No Rosesʼ is a surprisingly straightforward pop song with echoes of ska — if you think it combines well with Can's acid guitar overdubs, feel free to take it, but the way I see it, Rosko and Karoli are going against each other's grain here, and the result is an incoherent mess where a potentially fun pop song is messed up with a rambling arrangement, and a potentially cool psycho jam is dissipated within an imperfect pop song.
That said, both of these tunes are God-given masterpieces compared to ʽLike Inobe Godʼ, which is probably the worst thing ever committed to tape under the Can moniker. The backing track sounds like a theme for a low-budget blacksploitation movie, a fluffy soft-funk jam that goes nowhere in particular and does nothing interesting (and totally wastes Schmidt's talents on the piano) — and in the foreground, Rosko and Rebop add chaotic scatting vocals that, according to one review of the album, sound like «two rastas in the loo», a description with which I could not agree more. If you thought Mooney was too looney, and Suzuki was too spooky, then upon hearing ʽLike Inobe Godʼ, you will want to rush back to both as if they were Moses and Aaron in the flesh, because this is just... ridiculous. The track has as much to do with Can as a Mick Jagger/Lenny Kravitz collaboration has to do with The Rolling Stones.
If not for this disaster (and it goes on for six minutes! six minutes of your time not simply wasted, but raped and humiliated!), I might have refrained from a thumbs down — I mean, «boring» is not quite the same as «offensive», and even the boring stuff still has those Karoli guitar solos. But the thing is, this record really has no reason to exist. They are not even settling into some kind of predictable-acceptable formula — they are trying to modify the formula in such a way that it loses all possible effectiveness. Even Saw Delight, when you play it back to back with Tago Mago, has its own special charm; Out Of Reach just sounds like a band that, once upon a time, knew it all, but ended up forgetting everything. And don't blame this on Rosko and Rebop: those guys were just doing their Caribbean thing. It's the band's original creative management that is ultimately responsible for this travesty.