Can’s Impossible Music

German rock band Can's masterpiece album is the subject of yet another thinly-veiled memoir in the 33 1/3 series, but the approach fits the enigmatic subject better than expected.

In the opening pages of Scottish novelist Alan Warner’s 33 ⅓ book on Can’s classic 1971 album Tago Mago, the author performs a stylistic bait-and-switch. Through monotonous purple prose, Warner describes the sound of Tago Mago, an album still regarded as impenetrably abstract and indefinable four decades removed. The descriptions amount to insufficient summary.

All is not as it seems, however; Warner breaks from this initial approach to analyze the classic plight of the music writer. “We must resort to image, simile, and metaphor,” he says. “We resort to common poetry to describe the impossible.” This is Can’s music: impossible. Music fans have been trying to wrap their head around songs like “Mushroom” and “Aumgn” for generations, but in the end they’re satisfied to be merely captivated by the mystery of it.