Monday, March 19, 2007

Amon Duul UK with Robert Calvert: 'Die Losung'

Rating: 7/B

I don't know much about Amon Duul, Amon Duul II or the apparently ephemeral and tenuously titled Amon Duul UK. I know even less about Kraut Rock in general. I hunted down and listened to this album because of the involvement of the late Robert Calvert, sometimes-lyricist and occasional frontman to Hawkwind. Bearing that in mind, I've tried to find out a bit about the history of this album before reviewing. It appears it was recorded as a collaboration between Amon Duul II guitarist John Weinzierl and Robert Calvert, recorded in 1987/88, and released hurriedly and in a somewhat unpolished form under the instigation of Dave Anderson, bassist on this album and on various Hawkwind and Amon Duul II albums, in 1989, after Calvert's untimely death. Weinzierl claims that the project was never meant to be relased under the Amon Duul banner, and that it was intended to be polished to a far more idiosyncratic sheen if time had allowed.

Be that as it may, what we have here is an album of music that bears the mark of 1980s moderate-rock Homogenisation, but also a few traces of character in the guitar work, which is more gutsy and leftfield than the 80s moderate-rock norm, when it's allowed to breathe, and the drums by Van Der Graaf's Guy Evans are typically hyper when the music allows for it. There are a few gossamer threads of spacey keyboard work floating around, courtesy of the Ozric chaps I believe, and then there's Calvert.

A lot of the time here, Calvert's voice sounds nothing like his snotty, almost proto-punk delivery on Hawkwind classics like 'Quark, Strangeness & Charm' or 'Reefer Madness'. Instead, we have a more cold, introspective Calvert on display here, with an almost apathetic vocal delivery that's remniscent of the equally late and lamented Ian Curtis on songs like the luck-of-the-draw meditation, 'Big Wheel' or the epic meditation on romantic fascination, 'Drawn To The Flame'.

He's more upbeat on the rocking 'Urban Indian', where he sings about the joys of fighting for his freedom in the urban wilderness, and urges his listeners to do the same and be Urban Indians. I'd suppose I've already achieved this goal, but I suspect what he means for us to be is like the Red Indians, or more specifically like the romantic ideal of the free, self-reliant Noble Savage. There's some trademark wordplay here and the song fits in well with the spirit of urban rebellion Calvert often captured in his work with Hawkwind, althout Weinzierl is a bit more over the edge than Dave Brock's rocking chug. The song ends with Calvert chanting disjointed syllables in one of the most bizzare moments of the album.

Adrenalin Rush is another upbeat song, and the lyrics are, true to form, not quite what you'd imagine. Calvert praises the sudden rush of adrenalin available through seemingly slow-paced activities like cricket and fishing and warns people who always run around that they could get a heart attack. And here I thought it'd be a druggy anthem.

Visions Of Fire has a more epic feel, and has Calvert recounting the story of a disilluionment in love and the process of burning all her letters thereafter. This dark take in romance is, of course, explored in greater detail in the oppressive and monumental 'Drawn To The Flame', the best song on the album along with 'Urban Indian'.

There are also a couple of songs sung by Julie Waring, and she also does some neat backing vocals on 'Drawn To The FLame', her ethereal, girly voice contrasting tellingly with Calvert's more harsh and withdrawn vocal. The songs where she handles lead vocals are rather divorced from the rest album by her very different voice, but 'They Call It Home' does have a very cool feel, a sort of ardent, pulsing rock that reminds me of The Cult.

The Eiderdown-Stuffing Bottomline:
The music is far more undistinguished and generic than you'd expect from this line-up. but some songs stand out, especially the epic 'Drawn To The Flame'. A somewhat average album, but worth the effort for fans of Calvert's unique lyrical and vocal presence.

No comments: