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Kraftwerk - Trans-Europe Express [Aka: Trans-Europa Express] CD (album) cover




Progressive Electronic

3.95 | 355 ratings

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3 stars Trans-Europe Express is an album with two personalities; one delicate and wistful the other cold and mechanical. The album's concept is also divided. The largest portion of the album is focuses on positive pan-European sentimentality as represented primarily by train travel. The other more minor theme is appearance and celebrity. Two of the longer tracks are devoted to it. Perhaps somewhat ironically, much of the truly mechanical sounding music is about human behaviour and all the carefree music is about trains. That's just the sort of thing I would expect from Kraftwerk.

Perhaps unsurprisingly then my opinion on the album is divided. Some parts of it I find exceptional other parts I find bland. I don't prefer one concept to the other or necessarily one mood to the other. There are parts of both which I truly enjoy. On the balance though I would say it is the darker part of the album which I find a bit lacking.

My favourite track on the album and certainly a front runner for my favourite Kraftwerk song is the lead track Europe Endless. It is a 9 minute plus voyage across the sights of Europe. Musically, it is based heavily on the sound trains make as they pass along the tracks. The sense of motion and the upbeat mood are simply infectious.

From there the album switches both concepts and moods on Hall of Mirrors. This is my favourite track as far as both the dark mood and celebrity concept are concerned. It is more sparse and demure when measured against Europe Endless but far more poignant. It is so far the best Kraftwerk song I have encountered from a lyrical perspective.

Staying with the same concept and mood the album moves to Showroom Dummies. It is cynical and unhappy, but up tempo and bouncy. This makes for an odd mix, like I'm being ordered to dance against my will. In all it is a well realized concept which is spoiled by the act that cynicism and I don't tend mix well. I plain dislike it.

Staying darker and mechanical we move back to travel and trains for Trans-Europe Express, which is in effect a Suite with Metal on Metal and Abzug. There's more sightseeing and place-name dropping, but this time it comes off as unwelcoming and a bit arrogant. If you're into that sort of stuff fine. It is a dynamic song and I think it gets a bit better during its instrumental stretches the best of which is essentially Metal on Metal (It sounds like it's named). I, however, find that it doesn't quite mesh with the relentless positivity expressed in or Europe Endless or Franz Schubert.

Franz Schubert is actually the third prominent musical name drop on the album, but the only one to get a whole song. David Bowie (which prompted Bowie to the return the favour on Heroes) and Iggy Pop are mentioned during the title track. Schubert is again light and highly enjoyable. It is a purely instrumental track which I would assume makes musical quotations from the composer himself, but as I am not knowledgeable of this work I can't say. It is highly reminiscent of Europe Endless, but not quite the same. One of the most interesting features of the track are the sudden halts in the mellotron which almost sound like break-beats. The track continues uninterrupted into Endless Endless which is a short but enduring farewell to the album.

I do recommend the album. I think other people might be able to get a bit more out of it than I did. The parts I like, I do so emphatically. The parts I don't I generally tend to eschew, which isn't really a characteristic I look for in a complete album. The music is always distinctly Kraftwerk. If you have a taste for it I think you'll abide by this album. By my taste, I give it a good, but not great; 3 stars. With an important corollary that you at least go out and listen to Europe Endless at some point because it is truly worthwhile.

I have to mention that I love the cover artwork on the 2009 remastered version of the album!

R-A-N-M-A | 3/5 |


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