David Stubbs - Future Days: Krautrock and the Building of Modern Germany (4 stars)


A thorough critical and cultural history of the genre of Kraftwerk, Can, Neu!, Faust and more

(Faber & Faber)

'The European canon is here' declared David Bowie on 1976's Station to Station, signalling his allegiance to the new German music, crassly but enduringly dubbed krautrock by the 1970s British music press. Four decades on, krautrock is enshrined in the pantheon.

Future Days, by Melody Maker and The Wire alumnus David Stubbs, is the thorough critical and cultural history the genre deserves. From the cyclical rhythms of Can and the sleek motorik of Neu!, to the Dada assemblages of Faust and the gleaming futurism of Kraftwerk, krautrock offers a world of possibilities. Stubbs captures the visionary appeal of those acts and cult favourites such as Ash Ra Tempel, Guru Guru and Conrad Schnitzler, framing their innovations within the context of a post-war Germany rebuilding its culture from scratch.

Rather than imitate Anglo-American pop and rock, the krautrock acts, he argues, embraced electronics, texture, and the sublimity of repetition, creating music that still astonishes. Blending new interviews and historical research with a sharp critical eye, Stubbs deftly steers the reader from the Bavarian commune of Amon Düül to the frontier zone of West Berlin, taking in encounters with Karlheinz Stockhausen, the Baader-Meinhof gang and Werner Herzog along the way. He's particularly good on Can and the Neu!/Harmonia/Cluster axis, creating vivid impressions of their often abstract music, while shedding light on their ideas and methods. The chapter on Faust is both hilarious and inspirational, leaving the reader amazed at how such an anarchic and brilliant group got away with it, albeit momentarily.

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