FAUST Two Classic Albums From Faust: Faust / So Far (Collectors’ Choice Music)

No idle hyperbole, this twofer repackaging really does boast two classic albums from Faust, their first and second, originally released in 1971 and 1972 respectively.

In these litigious times it’s barely comprehensible that the first few seconds of “Why Don’t You Eat Carrots” contain distorted facsimiles of The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” (in the case of the latter a good 16 years before The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu had a similar idea). What follows is, perhaps unexpectedly, far closer to the Dada-inspired comedy surrealism of The Bonzo Dog Band and The Mothers Of Invention’s blistering social satire than the tightly controlled pulsebeats of Neu! or Kraftwerk or Can’s interstellar overdrive. Their debut album is less a collection of fully-formed songs than a pile of musical fragments, conversation and effects all stitched together – very “Lumpy Gravy”, in fact, although less arduous a listen than Frank Zappa’s solo debut. The nightmarish screeching, rattling and squeaking found on “Meadow Meal” is strongly reminiscent of The Mothers Of Invention’s “The Chrome Plated Megaphone Of Destiny”, but the same song also takes in some straightforward acid rock, a thunderstorm and an almost childlike, twinkling organ solo. The side-long (in old money) “Meadow Meal” is a druggy jam edited into something resembling shape: there’s woozy, fuzzy weirdness, one minute harsh and mocking, the next comforting and cajoling, an operatic tenor performing unsteadily to himself, manic piano improvisation, Tolkeinesque muttering and a bizarre stereophonic word game that‘s part The Velvet Underground’s “The Murder Mystery” and part “I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue”.

If Yes were forced to remake “Close To The Edge” using no instruments whatsoever, the result might sound something like “Faust”. Like the hand on the cover, it seems like an x-ray of an album, all intention and suggestion. “So Far”, on the other, er, hand, concedes to the label’s desires for something a little less brazenly uncommercial, with shorter songs and the occasional suggestion of structure.

“It’s A Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl” is bubblegum Krautpop brutalised by a Mo Tucker-esque motorik percussive thump. Not for the last time on this album, it features a couple of borderline nonsensical lyrics repeated ad nauseum, Faust gleefully subverting the idea of selling out. As a relatively straightforward classical guitar instrumental, “On The Way To Abamae” is reminiscent of Yes’ “Mood For A Day”, but “No Harm” is more akin to that patchwork scrapbook of a debut. It fades in on a foggy processional, the kind of thing you’d expect to hear on a Threshold Records release from round about that time, before becoming a kind of unhinged rockabilly replete with the catchy, repeated holler “Daddy take a banana/Tomorrow is Sunday”. The title track is a slab of bluesy Krautrock, if that’s not a contradiction in terms, its intertwining Moebius strip melody foreshadowing the work of Tortoise and The Necks. “I’ve Got My Car And My TV” is a chirpy, cheery Small Faces-style singalong, later referenced by Julian Cope on his “I’ve Got My T.V. And My Pills”. The closing triumvirate of “Picnic On A Frozen River”, “Me Lack Space…” and “…In The Spirit” foregrounds those Mothers Of Invention comparisons again in its slide from cheeky, knowing tunefulness through studied dissonance to scissor-fingered tape editing frenzy. Then suddenly we’re in a cheesy nightclub (the MC’s patter always has me looking over my shoulder when listening to it on my iPod) being subjected to insincerely-voiced inanities like “Put on your socks before you put on your shoes” – totally Bonzos!

Fun for all the family, then. Perhaps not quite what their imposing image suggests, Faust temper their music with just the right amount of pranksterism, making some of their contemporaries sound po-faced in comparison.


“Faust IV”’s cover image of blank manuscript paper neatly echoes the limitless possibilities of the music it enfolds. Mostly toning down the comedy collage element of their previous work, there’s more musical experimentation and fewer sly Bonzo Dog Band and Mothers Of Invention homages.

Opener “Krautrock” is an amorphous drone, shaped into distant suggestions of rhythm and melody. Not entirely unlike what My Bloody Valentine would be doing eighteen years later on “Loveless”, it makes the thumping metronomic beats of contemporaries such as Neu! and Kraftwerk appear instantly anachronistic. “Faust IV” isn’t all chin-stroking effects pedal blur and flurry, though: “The Sad Skinhead”’s biting satire and jerky avant-ska might not be quite what you’d expect, and the hazy, blissfully languid “Jennifer” sounds like a heathaze with drums, woozily tipping the nod to the likes of Syd Barrett and Robert Wyatt. “Giggy Smile” is somewhere between The Stooges and Talking Heads, an elastic assault with an art-rock edge. “Läuft…Heisst Das Es Läuft Oder Es Kommt Bald…Läuft” is as convoluted as its title, swerving between pell-mell rhythmic chaos and fuzzy ambience. The acoustic guitars on “It’s A Bit Of A Pain” sound almost alien in this company, perhaps explained by the fact that it was a previously released single tacked on to the end of the record when the album’s recording sessions overran.

This 2006 reissue adds the expected booklet essay and a whole disc of bonus treats, including a Peel Session, some not-staggeringly-alternate takes and an unreleased track. The latter, “Piano Piece”, is more inspired than its functional title might suggest, a foggy, Enoesque wash that’s at least two years ahead of its time. “The Lurcher” starts as a saxophony cacophony, but its combination of crazed improv against a funky bassline and straightahead drums gradually slips its moorings to become a percussion workout.

Faust might seem like a foreboding band even at this distance, but “Faust IV” arguably makes a more endearing introduction than the single disc reissue of “Faust” and “So Far”, enjoyable as those albums are. There’s less yelled weirdness and more musical invention, which seems like a fair exchange.