Tago Mago [reissue] - MUTE/SPOON
FILTER Grade: 95%
By Jon Pruett on November 18, 2011
First, a little perspective: Tago Mago came out in 1971, the same year as Sticky Fingers, Maggot Brain, Hunky Dory, Master of Reality, There’s a Riot Goin’ On and Electric Warrior. Even with that kind of rarefied company, this album still seems sui generis. Sure, Can had recorded before and the results were as beguiling as brilliant, but Tago Mago was (and is) a double-length album like no other. Four decades on, and there has yet to be anything that hits on this kind of organic, brain-melting, structured psychosis. The key here is the locked groove of drummer Jaki Liebezeit and bassist Holger Czukay. These guys get into a kind of metronomic interplay that remains the group’s largest legacy—check out the skittering, propulsive “Oh Yeah” or the juggernaut swagger of the 18-minute “Halleluwah.” On top of this is Michael Karoli’s spindly, spiderweb guitars and the inspired, oft-indecipherable rants of Damo Suzuki. “Mushroom” shows the band can do concise when they want to, cramming stuttering groove, bizarre rage/paranoia and droning guitar lines into just over four minutes. “Aumgn” goes into full-on acoustic/electronic sound collage territory and maybe the band’s most out-there moment before reigning back the free energy into something more rhythm-based on “Peking O” (setting up the electronic and organic fusion of the next year’s Ege Bamyasi). “Bring Me Coffee or Tea” adds a sweet, swaying mystical coda to this long and strange adventure. The reissue adds three live cuts from 1972 (including a 30-minute version of “Spoon”!) that further showcase these peerless, unclassifiable giants, making for an album that should be mandatory listening for students of the outer realms.