German art rock innovators Can were known for creating relentlessly experimental albums boiled down from endless improvisational sessions, but they possessed a keen sensibility for writing offbeat pop songs. They released a decent amount of 45s, all of which are collected in one place for the first time on The Singles. Even though some of these selections appeared in longer form on the group's seminal albums, here they're presented as three- or four-minute edits. In the case of tracks like Tago Mago's sprawling centerpiece "Halleluwah" or the lovely riverside drift of Future Days' title track, the single version distills them to their essence, concentrating on the moments with the heaviest grooves and most up-front vocals. Of course, Can's albums contained plenty of tracks that were obvious choices for singles, and tunes like the smooth, trippy "She Brings the Rain" and the immortal funk jams "Vitamin C" and "Mushroom" are among the most memorable and instantly appealing selections in the group's sprawling catalog. Two of the group's poppiest singles even managed to become genuine chart hits at the time of their release. The 1971 single "Spoon," which uniquely combined live drumming with a drum-machine pulse, reached the German Top Ten after it was featured as the theme song to a popular television program called Das Messer. A few years later, Can's cosmic disco single "I Want More" hit the U.K. Top 30, and even resulted in an appearance on the BBC's iconic Top of the Pops. Aside from songs like this, which are well known even to casual fans of the group, the collection contains a decent amount of rarities and lesser-known A-sides (particularly from the group's later, less canonical incarnations). Some of these are among the silliest pieces the group ever laid to tape. "Turtles Have Short Legs," a rare single from 1971, is particularly goofy, with Damo Suzuki giddily shouting over the song's supremely jaunty piano-led rhythm. There's also a curious instrumental rendition of the Christmas standard "Silent Night." Even more head-scratching is "Can Can," a swirling, athletic interpretation of the familiar Jacques Offenbach melody, and the novelty single "Hoolah Hoolah," from Can's late-'80s reunion album Rite Time (which featured the group's original vocalist, Malcolm Mooney). Songs like these are pretty trivial compared to the group's best work, but in the context of a run through the group's singles, they're harmless whimsy. For all of their serious, avant-garde inclinations, Can could be awfully fun to listen to, and this alternate universe hit parade is a sterling demonstration of the group at its most immediate, energetic, and enjoyable.
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AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson