Kraftwerk – The Man Machine (1978)

AllMusic Review: The Man-Machine is closer to the sound and style that would define early new wave electro-pop — less minimalistic in its arrangements and more complex and danceable in its underlying rhythms. Like its predecessor, Trans-Europe Express, there is the feel of a divided concept album, with some songs devoted to science fiction-esque links between humans and technology, often with electronically processed vocals (“The Robots,” “Spacelab,” and the title track); others take the glamour of urbanization as their subject (“Neon Lights” and “Metropolis”). Plus, there’s “The Model,” a character sketch that falls under the latter category but takes a more cynical view of the title character’s glamorous lifestyle. More pop-oriented than any of their previous work, the sound of The Man-Machine — in particular among Kraftwerk’s oeuvre — had a tremendous impact on the cold, robotic synth pop of artists like Gary Numan, as well as Britain’s later new romantic movement. — Steve Huey

Track Listing:

Side one
No. Title Music Length
1. “The Robots” (“Die Roboter”)
  • Hütter
  • Florian Schneider
  • Karl Bartos
6:10
2. “Spacelab”
  • Hütter
  • Bartos
5:50
3. “Metropolis”
  • Hütter
  • Schneider
  • Bartos
6:01
Side two
No. Title Music Length
4. “The Model” (“Das Modell”)
  • Hütter
  • Bartos
3:38
5. “Neon Lights” (“Neonlicht”)
  • Hütter
  • Schneider
  • Bartos
9:03
6. “The Man-Machine” (“Die Mensch-Maschine”)
  • Hütter
  • Bartos
5:28

 

Schill Score: 9.5/10

 

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Kraftwerk – Trans-Europe Express (1977)

AllMusic Review: Although Autobahn was a left-field masterpiece, Trans-Europe Express is often cited as perhaps the archetypal (and most accessible) Kraftwerk album. Melodic themes are repeated often and occasionally interwoven over deliberate, chugging beats, sometimes with manipulated vocals; the effect is mechanical yet hypnotic. Thematically, the record feels like parts of two different concept albums: one a meditation on the disparities between reality and image (“Hall of Mirrors” and “Showroom Dummies” share recurring images of glass, reflection, illusion, and confused identities, as well as whimsical melodies), and the other the glorification of Europe. There is an impressive composition paying homage to “Franz Schubert,” but the real meat of this approach is contained in the opening love letter, “Europe Endless,” and the epic title track, which shares themes and lyrics with the following track, “Metal on Metal.” The song “Trans-Europe Express” is similar in concept to “Autobahn,” as it mimics the swaying motion and insistent drive of a cross-continent train trip. What ultimately holds the album together, though, is the music, which is more consistently memorable even than that on Autobahn. Overall, Trans-Europe Express offers the best blend of minimalism, mechanized rhythms, and crafted, catchy melodies in the group’s catalog; henceforth, their music would take on more danceable qualities only hinted at here (although the title cut provided the basis for Afrika Bambaataa’s enormously important dancefloor smash “Planet Rock”). — Steve Huey

Track Listing

 

Side one
No. Title Lyrics Music Length
1. “Europe Endless” (“Europa Endlos”)
  • Ralf Hütter
  • Florian Schneider
Hütter 9:40
2. “The Hall of Mirrors” (“Spiegelsaal”)
  • Hütter
  • Schneider
  • Emil Schult
Hütter 7:56
3. “Showroom Dummies” (“Schaufensterpuppen”) Hütter Hütter 6:15
Side two
No. Title Lyrics Music Length
4. “Trans-Europe Express” (“Trans Europa Express”)
  • Hütter
  • Schult
Hütter 6:52
5. “Metal on Metal” (“Metall auf Metall”) Hütter 2:11
6. “Abzug” Hütter 4:53
7. “Franz Schubert” Hütter 4:26
8. “Endless Endless” (“Endlos Endlos”)
  • Hütter
  • Schneider
0:55

 

Schill Score:  9/10

Schill Comment:  When it comes to experimental music most bands swing and miss and miss the mark by a long shot.  This album is how you do it.

 

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Kraftwerk – Autobahn (1974)

Kraftwerk – Autobahn Although Kraftwerk’s first three albums were groundbreaking in their own right, Autobahn is where the group’s hypnotic electronic pulse genuinely came into its own. The main difference between Autobahn and its predecessors is how it develops an insistent, propulsive pulse that makes the repeated rhythms and riffs of the shimmering electronic keyboards and trance-like guitars all the more hypnotizing. The 22-minute title track, in a severely edited form, became an international hit single and remains the peak of the band’s achievements — it encapsulates the band and why they are important within one track — but the rest of the album provides soundscapes equally as intriguing. Within Autobahn, the roots of electro-funk, ambient, and synth pop are all evident — it’s a pioneering album, even if its electronic trances might not capture the attention of all listeners. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Track Listing

Side one
No. Title Length
1. “Autobahn” (“Motorway”) 22:43
Side two
No. Title Length
2. “Kometenmelodie 1” (“Comet Melody 1”) 6:26
3. “Kometenmelodie 2” (“Comet Melody 2”) 5:48
4. “Mitternacht” (“Midnight”) 3:43
5. “Morgenspaziergang” (“Morning Walk”) 4:04
Total length: 42:26

 

 

Schill Score:  9/10

 

 

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