Rother/Dinger diehards will surely be aware of Neu!’s formation in the mid-1980s and the existence of an album’s worth of mostly-finished material from the aborted recording sessions for what would’ve been the fourth Neu! album. It would’ve been a real mix of things. ‘Hallogallo’-harking motorik jams, loose kraut-punk like the Dinger-half of Neu! ’75, synth-based ambient compositions akin to Rother’s solo work and several stabs at a more slightly more accessible, pop leaning sound as well. You know, as accessible as this kind of thing gets….
‘Drive (Grundfunken)’ is here because it’s all of those elements, except maybe the latter, and is a perfect synthesis of Rother and Dinger’s styles, which didn’t always coalesce this well, even on the original Neu! albums of the ’70s, all three of them being nigh-untouchable classics in the eyes of many. Dinger’s motorik beat, here with a bit of an Afr0-tribal touch (which showed its head at few points during these sessions), forms the backbone, while a distorted, punky guitar line that I can only assume is also Dinger’s weaves its way around minimalistic bass groove from Rother. The latter’s own softer, ambient guitar playing doesn’t turn up until the song’s final minute, but when it does, it softens the mood and lays the song down to sleep at its end instead of finishing with the same bombast with which it began.
But what about the context this album’s making? What sounded out of this world in 1975 was more or less par-de-cours in 1986. New wave was here, and a lot of fairly experimental, forward-thinking music had made it beyond the realms of the musical undergrounds of this world. People who hadn’t heard the early seventies work of Neu! and Faust and Can had heard PiL and Joy Division and New Order and all other manner of bands that might have appealed to the more discerning, dare I say ‘arty’ listener by the time we hit the Year of our Lord, 1986.
So that’s where we are, then. An album that probably would’ve been seen as a middling effort, had it even been released. Most of the tracks that would’ve made up Neu!’s fourth record didn’t see the light of day until 1995, when at Dinger’s behest, allegedly without the consent of Rother, Neu! 4 was released on Captain Trip Records, a small Japanese label that also handled the releases from Dinger’s La! Neu? project in the mid-late ’90s. A second and by most accounts better release came in 2010, under the name Neu! ’86, on Grönland Records, this time with the approval of Rother, and of Dinger’s estate, Klaus Dinger having passed away in 2008 at age 61.