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Kraftwerk - The Man-Machine [Aka: Die Mensch-Maschine] CD (album) cover




Progressive Electronic

3.95 | 344 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website


But this isn't prog music, it's far too DANCEABLE!

That is (unfortunately) an all too common complaint about this album (and, even more unfortunately, one that I held for quite a long time). Thankfully, it's quite untrue, for even Zeuhl, one of the most difficult genres of prog (essentially bass guitar dominated RIO/avant; though there are other differences, the two genres are incredibly similar), is often danceable (Eskaton comes to mind). This album is truly marvelous, and while that may take several listens to discover, it's inevitable that it will happen sometime (at least for most people). This is quite possibly the most important progressive electronic album and my favorite by a hair over Trans-Europe Express, a hugely influential affair that shows that being progressive is not limited to any one style of music, but can be found in (almost) all avenues of creative sonic expression.

That brings me to another point I like to make from time to time in my reviews: what is the difference between 'prog' and 'progressive' music? For me, at least, 'prog' music is a set of characteristics that define music. These include extended compositions, odd time signatures, a tendency to take multiple listens to appreciate (especially true in the case of Kraftwerk, at least for me), and plenty of others. These characteristics are what bind all the bands accepted for inclusion on this site. 'Progressiveness,' however, is an entirely different beast. 'Progressiveness' is a mindset that bands/artists have when approaching music, the desire to do something different and new, to push the boundaries of music either in new directions or further in established directions, in essence, to redefine music. Kraftwerk isn't the most 'prog' band on the planet, but it is indisputable (whether you like them or not) that they are one of the most 'progressive.'

Now, back to the album in question. One look at the cover should give you an idea of what this album is like. It's methodical, meticulous, mechanical, ordered, structured, planned, and most of all, different. Unlike many of their German counterparts, such as CAN and Amon Duul II (and even NEU!, a band composed of two ex-Kraftwerk members), and perhaps even their early period as well, they leave little up to the imagination. They set it all right down in front of you for you to digest. They make their intentions clear, and you can either take it or leave it. I am not saying that this is bad, or that it's good, I'm simply saying that that's how the music is. I happen to like it. I also happen to like music that forces me to think more than this. Both are fine. Every detail of this album has clearly been planned to be the perfect note at the perfect time. Spontaneity is last thing you will ever get from this album (again, far removed from their German Krautrock counterparts).

Musically, of course, this is a purely electronic album (I don't think one "real" instrument is used, though given the brilliance of their synth and electronic percussion work, nothing is to be missed). Electronic beats are omnipresent, but unlike much modern electronica, they serve a purpose, and truly add to the song. What really makes this album worthwhile, however, is the band's absolutely incredible (and I cannot stress it enough) sense of melody. Every melody on this album is catchy as hell without sounding superficial. They will stick in your mind, and, ultimately, are what bring me back to this album time and time again. Every song on the album has more melody than most bands can put together in an entire career. It's simply incredible, and to me, at least, that is why this band is so amazing. I will be glad if I ever find another band with such delicate control over the ability of instruments to create beauty, to bring joy to the listener, in short, to make me feel happy. This album, without ever "rocking out," or even really moving much beyond a mellow pace, manages to captivate me and hold my interest for all thirty- six minutes without one dull moment. And keep in mind that I don't usually like such laid-back music as this. Die Mensch Machine (The Man Machine) has to be the single greatest exception to this 'rule' (along with Trans-Europa Express) I know.

I could talk about highlight songs, but what would be the point? They're all highlights. I don't dislike a single moment of a single song on here. The opener and closer (the two most important tracks on an album, in my opinion) are the two strongest, but the Spacelab, Metropolis, The Model, and Neon Lights are all on the same level. Neon Lights is probably the most 'prog' song on here at almost nine minutes and with several different stages, but all the others are plenty 'prog,' too. This is an album to tap your feet to (just try and resist the urge to move to it, I doubt you'll succeed). It works as both background music (because of its relaxed mood) and fully absorbing foreground music (because of its ability to engage the listener from the opening moments), and there's little more I can ask for in an album.

I used to think this album was dull and droll. Thankfully, I gave it enough listens that I began to see what others saw in it, preparing me for that one listen where it finally clicked (I'm sure you've all had similar experiences), and since then, I haven't been able to stop playing it. One last note before I wrap up my review: I own the English version of the album (The Man Machine). I haven't heard the German version (Die Mensch Machine), but I would advise you get it if you care about lyrics, because they are the weakest part of this album. If you don't really care about lyrics, either version is probably fine. Either way, it's a marvelous album, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Perfection is rarely ever reached, but this album comes close. A great introduction to progressive electronic music and one of my favorite albums. Just get it.

Pnoom! | 4/5 |


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