Tuesday, November 27, 2007

No. 253: Trans-Europe Express



(German version)
Band: Kraftwerk
Album: Trans-Europe Express
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: On the band's fifth album, Kraftwerk (German for “Factory”) found itself using custom built sequencers and synthesizers. It also had a truly full concept; The songs on the record are a celebration of European culture in varying forms, from the title track to the opening track, “Europe Endless.” Generally, Kraftwerk is the first real electronic band and have been sampled by endless hip hop and electronic records, most famously on the alleged first real hip hop track, Afrika Bambaataa's “Planet Rock.”
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: It's not a foreground album. Kraftwerk works best as a soundtrack to something else and it's not fully realized, I'd say. I like it as the type of thing you play at a party, but to sit down and listen to it is not easy. I think, on some level, the RS editors felt Kraftwerk to be important, but since they don't have a greatest hits compilation, this album had to do. “Man-Machine” is probably a better album.
Best song: The title track and the next track, “Metal on Metal,” are fantastic.
Worst song: “Franz Schubert” isn't great
Is it awesome?: Absolutely.

In a time when German nationalism wasn't, um, popular (1975), Kraftwerk leader Ralf Hütter said in an interview with Creem magazine the following:

So you see another group, like Tangerine Dream, although [it is] German, [it has] an English[-language] name, so [it creates] on-stage an Anglo–American identity, which we completely deny. We want the whole World to know that we are from Germany, because the German mentality – which is more advanced – will always be part of our behaviour. We create out of the German language, the mother-language, which is very mechanical; we use it as the basic structure of our music.


Like the rest of the world (and specifically those who share the faith of my upbringing), I'm not entirely comfortable with German culture being considered more "advanced" than any other. There's nothing wrong with being proud to be German; I'm proud to be American in a lot of ways. But, still. That statement creeps me out a little. Just a little.

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Moog-heavy dance beats, the Casio synth, digital drumbeats, Afrika Bambaataa, "The Message," Ministry, Trans Am, the synth line in Whitney Houston's "Someone For Me," Einstruzen Neubaten, Krautrock, Can's popularity, the Neu! remasters, Moby, Daft Punk, etc.

There are few truly unique bands. Der Kraftwerk is one of them.

1 comment:

Adam Lounsbery said...

Hi, Ross. What a project! So far I wholeheartedly agree with your assessments of Straight Outta Compton and Superfly. (That's all I've read so far.) One point of interest for this review ... "Kraftwerk" actually means "power plant." "Fabrik" is the German word for factory. I agree that this isn't one of Kraftwerk's most listenable albums. I like it, but Der Mensch-Maschine is probably a better album, and just for pure listening enjoyment I've always liked Computerwelt the best.