Neu is German and means new, but that was in the 1970s, when even Windows NT was "New Technology".
|Genre(s)||Krautrock, proto-punk, post-rock, proto-post-pseudo-anti-post-kraut-electronica-space-jazz-paper-scissors-rock|
|Years active||1971–75; 1985–86|
|Label(s)||A discount sticker on most of their records|
Various other Germans with nothing better to do
|A Volkswagen motor that went on and on, even after switching off the ignition|
“Neu? They were heroes, just for one day.”
Neu! was an experimental rock band from Germany. A product of the sprawling '70s, their complex brand of Music Theory is called "Motorik". The two members were originally employed at the Kraftwerk power plant in Düsseldorf, Germany, but their bad work habits got them fired and replaced by robots, and long before that became popular. Neu! sought to protect themselves from a similar fate by developing their own robotic sound, which gave them a huge fan base inside The Matrix and among Terminators.
After inventing punk rock, krautrock, sour krautrock, proto-punk, post rock, electronic music, the light bulb and the infamous Motorik beat, Neu! dissolved after basically recording the same song twenty times in a row, and that became the Neu! discography. Neu! remains an influential band to this day — which means that fans of Neu! are all either under the influence or dealing with a bad case of influenza.
1971–72: Early years
Neu! comprised Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger. Forming Neu! made instant musical history as the band with the lamest band name and the cheesiest song titles. They performed on the Düsseldorf underground scene and a dedicated fan base would always show up at their concerts: the police, who came to arrest the band.
After gaining a record contract, they teamed up with a guy called Conny Planck to record their first album. After some hours of arguing and doing drugs (this was the 1970s, you know...), they frantically recorded 45 minutes of noise and called it an album. The opening track, "Hallogallo", was ten minutes of playing one single chord and one single drum beat, which led to great critical acclaim and cult status around the world.
1973–75: Chord experimentation
After topping the charts and playing their one-chord, one-drumbeat music, Neu! recorded another album. The title was 2 because the band committed a fit of artistic hubris and began recording songs employing 2 chords, though firmly within their monolithic, one-sided, one-dimensional sound. Unfortunately, they soon did not have 2 Deutschemarks to rub together, having spent it all on drugs (it was still the 1970s, dude...), and had not taken into account that the discs of that era had 2 sides and one of them had yet to be recorded.
So how did they fill out an entire album? They recorded the same two songs at different speeds and called it a day. Lazy? Yes. Cheating? Yes. Underachiving? Jahr! But once again, the critics loved it, and their music was played all over Germany, even on the other side of the Berlin Wall — since the lyrics were either "la la la" or "na na na", it didn't insult the East German censorship committee (except on a few tracks, where the "la la la" had a capitalist tone to it).
Neu! began work on their third album, including a song named "Hero" that would inspire David Bowie to make a song called "Heroes". The obvious next step was to record a song using a full three chords, but the band found no way to make it fit into their musical philosophy. Indeed, the turmoil led to the band disbanding, essentially proving that Bowie was more of a hero than they were.
Having disbanded, band members underwent various phases (where you and I would instead complete "semesters" or "shifts"). The inactive phase involved solo projects, often one-disc stands, with many other players, in a sort of musical promiscuity. Rother indulged in a cluster-fuck with electronic duo Cluster, then followed this with a phase of complete musical celibacy, recording a sequence of solo albums with names that would be suggestive, except that they are in German.
Dinger and his brother (Donger) recorded an album that Bowie would call "the soundtrack of the eighties." The conceptual problem here was having to take an entire decade to pad out the B side. This proved no better at putting Deutschemarks on the table than Neu! had.
1985–86: Aborted comeback
Between 1985 and 1986, Rother and Dinger followed their musical promiscuity with an abortion, in attempting to re-form the group. The duo experienced the classic creative dilemma between being faithful to their musical style, versus performing songs that anyone else would want to listen to. Rother wrote "Crazy", for which calling it "pop" is the archetype of wishful thinking. Dinger punted completely, electing, in "86 Commercial Trash", merely to record a television between programs rather than to create trash of his own.
Following this effort, they were inexplicably torn apart by creative disagreement before actually creating anything. The appearance of an unsightly new skin rash did not help, either. The redeeming factor of this particular "phase" is that it generated a large number of "lost tracks" that would be sought out by collectors, decades later, who would pay real money to own every song.
Acrimony would have been a damned fine name for a fourth album from Neu! But imagine the acrimony when Rother found out that Dinger had released an album named Neu! consisting only of tracks that the two musicians had agreed would have aged better in the Recycle Bin. Oddly, it seems that in the recording of any album, there are scads of "unused tracks", likewise in the rehearsals for live concerts that have to be cancelled under the pretense of a "head cold." Often, however, hunger will out.
2001–08: The remasters
“The band admirably overcomes sudden, inexplicable interpersonal issues!!!”
The acrimony died out, but the hunger persisted, until the two men reunited in 2001, not in a back alley with the gloves off, but in a studio to remaster some of their past work. The reason it required a studio was that additional recording was necessary to complete some of the songs. Fortunately, the duo's unique musical style meant that none of the playing required more than two fingers at a time, as it had not originally. The discs were released with stickers bearing rave reviews by notable artists, all of whom would later deny they ever heard the music.
A widely anticipated fifth album, however, was held up when sudden personal disagreements inexplicably resurfaced between them. These disagreements were resolved, on 21 March 2008, when Dinger had a permanent stoppage of the Ticker. Rother said that he was unaware of Dinger's condition until he phoned him to tell him he was being a real Dick, and Dinger had nothing to say.
The event was a signal to opportunists to push out more remasters of tracks whose publication would have mortified Dinger, had heart failure not mortified him first.
The Motorik theory
The musical theory behind Neu!'s sound is called Motorik and is a manufacturing concept developed by Volkswagen. The original idea was to invent an engine that kept going, but the idea was picked up by the German krautrock scene as a way of developing music. Well, calling it music may be a bit too much. Perhaps it's better to call it... Minimalism. No, that is too big a word. Sounds? No. Mind-numbing, faceless, droning machine noise? Possibly. Let's just stick with Motorik because when an engine goes boom-boom-bah-boom, boom-boom-bah-boom, boom-boom-bah-boom for ten minutes straight, it's not really music. At least it wasn't in the 1970s, but today things have changed. Just ask Daft Punk, representing the minority of robotic musicians.
The Motorik theory has been picked up by many other bands: David Bowie, Kraftwerk, Radiohead, Nintendo and Toyota. The recession of Detroit can be attributed to Neu! breaking up, as the car industry didn't have a soundtrack anymore.
A huge number of groups and phenomena trace their success to the work of Neu!.
- Neu! Sheuz was a rhythm-and-blues band from the U.S. State of Oregon. Their Wikipedia page cautions that they are not to be confused with new shoes. It is just, like, a pun. The group formed in 1979 with twelve members and recorded the dance album Can't Turn It Off. Thereafter, however, they turned off five of the members. The survivors appreciated the increased share of the evening's take so much that they began plotting to replace each other with machines.
- Neu! Seeland was a re-release of the band's hit "Seeland" whose release in 1975 induced the Pacific Ocean to release two islands in reply.
- Neu! Hampshire is another U.S. State, also fashioned after the German band, in that there is rampant replacement of menial labor with machines, a minimum of true innovation, and winters of rapid-fire blizzards that become almost as repetitive and droning as Motorik.
- Neu! Tron is a nuclear particle created in tribute to the band. It lacks a positive charge and nestles itself right in the middle of things, though perhaps it is hiding.
- Neu! Monia was the disease that fans of Neu! contracted, when they couldn't get any Influenza.