Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger
"This beat was the war drum of modernity, pushing the listener forwards into the future. It is often associated with the great transport networks of Germany, the railway lines and the autobahns. In fact the rhythm even mimics that of a car speeding along the open road or a train clattering along the rails: fast, measured, travel never ending. It was the rock beat stripped back to a glittering chassis. It was the minimalist framework on which improvisation could take place."Neu!
(yes, with an exclamation mark) was a German band formed in 1971 by Klaus Dinger (mainly drums, also guitar and other instruments) and Michael Rother (guitar, bass, keyboards, other instruments) after they left Kraftwerk
. They are one of the major bands of what was dubbed by UK music journalists and critics as Krautrock
Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother, after helping Kraftwerk complete their debut album (produced by Conny Plank) and being part of the line-up in a short period in which Ralf Hutter had left the group, decided to leave the group (partly because of Florian Schneider's difficult temperament).
With help from Conny Plank, they recorded their ground-breaking debut album, which opened with "Hallogallo". This track is crucial because it defined, right there and then, Neu!'s important trademark sound, which was based on Dinger's "motorik beat" (sometimes also called the "Apache beat"). The rest of the album was, for the most part, incredibly different and experimental, although they seemed already defined (even by visual standards. Their logo was basically their name painted with a red marker over a white cover in a pop-art style
Their second album was even more amazing. After recording some songs (including "Für Immer", which Julian Cope, in his book Krautrocksampler
, called "Hallogallo, part two"), they found themselves short of money. Considering that they had released a single in between albums, they added the single (titled "Super", with "Neuschnee" as a B-side) to the recorded tracks, but it still fell short of the desired recorded time. So, what did they do? Basically they took "Super" and "Neuschnee" and played them at different RPM (Rotations per Minute) and other methods like putting the record off-center at the turntable, hence anticipating the remix.
Their temperaments clashed and Dinger and Rother separated, and then reunited for their third and final album in the 70's, Neu!'75, which was a two-headed beast. On side one, there were Rother's ambient explorations, very focused on keyboards and his guitar playing, which was very fluid and devoid of stuff like chordal progression and blues scales. On side two, Dinger basically set the template for UK Punk
music, at least two years (or three, if you count the A-side of single "Super") before the first singles by the Sex Pistols
and The Damned
, with relentless single chord guitar pounding, distorted "Motorik" beats bashed simultaneously by his brother Thomas and Hans Lampe, and Dinger's sneering, unintelligible vocals. They split and went separate ways (Dinger went to form La Düsseldorf, who took that second side of the record Up to Eleven
, and Rother went to form Harmonia with Cluster and recording his debut solo album).
They reformed in the mid-80's to record another album, which ended up sounding like a cross between their old sound and the contemporary sound of some New Wave Music
groups. The album was released in a more commercial format in 1995, and only became part of the official back catalogue as of 2010.
Klaus Dinger died in 2008, and Rother formed a project to present Neu!'s music and some new pieces with Steve Shelley (Music.Sonic Youth
) and Aaron Mullan (Tall Firs).
Among the people influenced by them, there were: David Bowie
, Iggy Pop, Brian Eno
, John Lydon (of the Sex Pistols
and Public Image Ltd.
), Joy Division
, Gary Numan
, Ultravox, Boredoms, Stereolab
(who are the most blatant case of Follow the Leader
, by basically exploiting the Neu! sound), Radiohead
, and also many auteurs in the latest electronic music scenes. Additionally, Negativland
named themselves and their label Seeland after two of their songs.
- Neu! (1972)
- Neu! 2 (1973)
- Neu! '75 (1975)
- Neu! 4 (1995) (Later re-released with a different track list as Neu! '86 as part of their Vinyl Box set)
Tropes associated with the band:
- Breakup Breakout: Klaus Dinger formed La Düsseldorf just before Neu! 75 with latter-day band members Thomas Dinger and Hans Lampe. After Neu! officially broke up, La Düsseldorf went on to sell over a million records in Germany and were about as critically lauded as Neu!.
- Neu! themselves were not this, however. After leaving Kraftwerk, the latter band released Autobahn (albeit with inspiration from Neu!) and went on to critical and commercial success, while Neu! were much more influential than they were successful.
- Chronological Album Title
- Epic Rocking: Every track of the debut album with the exception of "Sonderangebot"; "Für Immer" from Neu! 2; four of the six tracks from Neu! '75 (namely, "Seeland", "Leb' Wohl", "Hero" and "E-Musik").
- Excited Show Title!
- Just for Pun: Several song titles, most of which also serve as a Bilingual Bonus.
- "Hallogallo" is a play on the German slang term halligalli, meaning a wild party, and hallo.
- "Isi" is both phonetically the same as "easy" and a contraction of the name Isabella.
- "E-Musik" is a contraction of ernste Musik, meaning "serious" (rather than "popular") music. Considering the other songs on that side...
- Minimalistic Cover Art
- Noise Rock: "Negativland" is an early example.
- One-Man Band: Well, two-man band. Their first two albums and the first side of their third was recorded entirely by Rother and Dinger playing all instruments themselves. Dinger switched to guitar for the second side of the latter, requiring them to bring in Thomas Dinger and Hans Lampe to play drums.
- Punk Rock: A noted Ur Example, particularly with side 2 of Neu! 75.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Dinger's compositions anticipated Punk Rock, while Rother's were more gentle and ambient.
- Trope Maker: Of the "Motorik" beat. Artists that use the beat pattern are almost exclusively referencing Neu!.