All Out Kraut: Amon Düül II HiJack Conventional Rock
Amon Düül II was by far the most politically charged, radical, and musically variable krautrock group. It’s no wonder considering they formed out of the political and musical commune Amon Düül during the student movement of the 1960s – hugely infamous for their political activism. When the musically proficient members wanted to focus on music rather than politics, they left the commune and Amon Düül II was born. There was also Amon Düül O, a short lived musical experiment that owes a lot to free jazz, especially Ornette Coleman. Both Amon Düül and Amon Düül II disbanded in the early 1970s, but some members reunited shortly after and began to work under the name Amon Düül once more – this lineup is often called Amon Düül UK to avoid confusion (as if there wasn’t enough already).
It’s a real shame nobody ever talks about any incarnation of Amon Düül outside of their classic records. With their 1974 release, HiJack they abandoned their cosmic, psychedelic, drugged-out hippy-improvisational schtick and replaced it with some strange krauty attempt at rock songs. It’s all over the place sonically, there’s no real unified sound which is perhaps why many fans dislike this album – it’s such a huge departure from their previous work. It’s like Dylan going electric or something: fans revolt because it’s not what they expected.
In Ingmar Schrober’s 1979 biography of the band, HiJack is written off, relegated to a scant three lines. People call it an album for hardcore fans, but they also stipulate that even those fans shouldn’t feel obligated to listen, like, or god forbid, own it. Hijack gets a pretty bad rap all around but honestly, if you just acknowledge the fact that the album doesn’t take itself seriously, you really shouldn’t either. Take it for what it is – a catchy art rock album – it’s not super krauty by any means, but I think it’s a good introduction into the world of Amon Düül if only due to its accessibility. Take the first song, I Can’t Wait pt.1 & 2, 11 minutes of Beatles-esque bliss, with a solid dose of campy German accents – you absolutely can’t call it a krautrock song. I’m not really sure what to call it.
Everyone always looks to Yeti as their seminal album and greatest indicator of their overall sound, but HiJack is equally as seminal an album because it sees an integral krautrock band attempting a pop record – something so ridiculously unexpected, you do yourself a disservice to dismiss it as some weird kraut-sacrilege. It definitely would appeal to fans of 70s art rock, the politically motivated, or those who are willing and able to forget its unfortunate reception.