Music: So Far (Faust)

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2000-11-29 23:34:38-05:00 No comments

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The first time I read anything about Faust was from a reviewer who helplessly confessed that he couldn't come up with even a snotty put-down for the band. They were that difficult to pin down. Similarly, many other reviewers have come out and tried to pigeonhole them as part of the Krautrock aggregate (Can, Amon Düül, Guru Guru, etc.), but they didn't even like that label themseves; in fact, they went so far as to mock it openly on their fourth album.

Faust's first record (pressed on transparent vinyl and inserted into a clear plastic sleeve) was a long, freeform assemblage of influences that weren't so much worn openly as swallowed whole. The second album, So Far (black record in black sleeve), isn't as shapeless, but that's not saying much—it's still one of the most indescribably interesting albums ever recorded. It's possible to pick up and put down the needle at random throughout and hear nothing but fine songwriting and playing, but if you simply let the album play all the way through, it's disorienting. Faust, more than almost any other band around, made whole records, not easily chopped-up singles.

The opening track "It's A Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl" is like a kindergarten-level idea of rock music. There's nothing more than a tom-tom, a single piano chord, some needles-and-pins guitar playing, a voice, and a sax solo over the fadeout, but it's so good-hearted and direct that it would almost show the rest of the record up for being pretentious—that is, if the rest of the record weren't so good. "On the Way to Abamae" is a lilting guitar piece, polite and almost unassuming, so much so that you wonder if the record has already given up on us. False alarm, because the mammoth "No Harm" takes over from there, moving through ominous organ chords to a fast-moving chant and then ending with one of the most scarifying blasts of musical terror yet waxed. The lyrics? "Daddy, take the banana / Tomorrow is Sunday" are the only words repeated over and over again through this, and they would sound funny if they weren't delivered with such frenzy.

"So Far" sounds more like the Krautrock that Faust tried not to be identified with, but there you go—it's almost a Pink Floyd song by any other name, with its steady beat and its mantra-like instrumental figures. The beat gets taken over by the bizarrely primitive-sounding "Mamie Is Blue"—thump! thump! Is this where Mike Gira got his ideas? It sure sounds like it, and the lyrics are still gibberish: "Mamie is blue / Daddy is blue / And mamie is blue / And daddy is blue / And mamie is you" … Etc., etc.

After petering out to nothing, there's more kindergarten-ish prancing around in the form of "I've Got My Car And My TV," replete with kiddy singers babbling about how "My clean machine's dream is a colourful gun." You've probably got the idea by now that coherence was never Faust's strong point. The songs are never about anything except themselves, which is something of a relief for a guy who is sick of slogging through so many dour discs that try so damn hard to Mean Something. This goes double for the final cut, " … In The Spirit," as sweet-natured a ditty as was ever recorded.

Faust's music may have its roots in a specific time and place, but listening to it now, almost 30 years later, it sounds downright timeless—not a part of any real movement or commercial upswelling in rock, not easily tagged with a dismissive identifier. This very attribute, this impossibility to nail down Faust, is one of the single biggest reasons to listen to them.
Tags: Krautrock