History Lesson

By Rob Brunner
Updated June 01, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

In the early ’70s, the German duo Neu! made three albums of elegantly uncomplicated grooves that have since won accolades from musicians such as Thom Yorke, Damon Albarn, and David Bowie. Neu!’s history, on the other hand, has been neither elegant nor uncomplicated. Formed in 1971 by ex- Kraftwerk-ers Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother, Neu! (pronounced noy) soon proved both musically fruitful and personally fretful. Until now, the duo’s albums — Neu!, Neu! 2, and Neu! 75 — have never been released outside Germany, due to decades of bickering between Dinger and Rother. ”There’s no use denying the difficulties Klaus and I have had,” says Rother. ”We are very different personalities. It’s hard to understand how we could work together. These difficulties go on and on and on.”

Even so, the Neu! albums have found a rabid following among connoisseurs of the genre known as Kraut rock, who’ve tracked down highly coveted bootleg CDs and discovered the simple joys of Dinger’s distinctive drumming, Rother’s fluid guitar work, and late producer Conny Plank’s studio artistry. Why have their spacey, experimental compositions endured despite decades of obscurity and neglect? ”Did you listen to them? So I guess you know,” Dinger boasts.

On May 29, after 10 years of negotiations and arguments, the newly remastered discs will finally be reissued (on Astralwerks). The nuances of the Rother-Dinger dispute are hard to follow (”Everybody who makes a poop somewhere is involved,” Dinger explains, sort of. ”Yah — share, share, share”), but relations have now defrosted enough that a new album and tour don’t seem entirely impossible. ”Many people would love that. Many people still hope the Beatles will reunite,” jokes Rother. ”As long as we’re alive, everything is possible. But just in recent days there are still new difficulties with Klaus, and it made me skeptical about big projects. In theory, it sounds great. I can even imagine what it would sound like.” So what would it sound like? ”It would sound good.”