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Kraftwerk - Tour De France Soundtracks CD (album) cover




Progressive Electronic

3.36 | 123 ratings

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3 stars This is the last Kraftwerk album I had to buy to complete the set and it is by far one of the worst, along with "Radio-Activity", though this is marginally better than that, good enough to scrape in with 3 stars.. I always feel rather burdened to play it in its entirety as it is unbelievably dull in places to the point of wanting to gnaw off one of your fingers. When I purchased this on CD along with Autobahn, I was quite disturbed at how bland and repetitive it was. The pathological digital sequencing may at first be endearing until the third listen and then it becomes unpleasant and nauseating.

Disappointing albums have almost become synonymous with Krautrock; among the masterpieces are the abysmal droning unpleasantness of electronic bleakness. I believe this to be the third worst album for Kraftwerk, the other 2 I won't need to mention, because it rests solely on one killer track. The soundtrack single to the French bicycle classic Tour de France. The band seem intent on capitalising on the success of the single returning again and again to the same hypnotic rhythm style, the same song in various forms and the same mantra. They even change the lyrics and play the same motif on other songs. This is a problem for me as I usually like to hear an album that has some kind of variance in its form whereas Kraftwerk are like a broken record stuck on the groove. I guess this is where trance and electro originated from, and it has it's fans, those who like to gyrate and wiggle to electronic trance hysteria, but as far as music to listen to on headphones, this music is a glorified headache, nothing more than filler. But Kraftwerk have no excuse to produce filler material when they are capable of genius objects of desire such as "Man Machine" and "Computer World", and indeed the title track of "Autobahn".

Released in 2003, TDF is actually the tenth album of the band and ended it for them really as no studio release has followed. One might suspect that they had run out of steam, after a disappointing previous synth-pop album and then this 17 years later, which is a tragedy for the seminal pioneers. The single of TDF was of course a hit in 1983 and this album was supposed to be released with new versions of that track and just in time for the actual Tour de France race. It failed on all accounts.

The problems are inherent in the way it was released, to capitalise on the race, and it does not deliver apart from a few tracks. There is a hybrid of languages consisting of French, German and English, all written by Ralf Hütter and Maxime Schmitt, and of course recorded in the infamous Kling Klang studio in Düsseldorf, Germany. The sounds are still retro as if Kraftwerk have been trapped in a time bubble for the last 25 years or so. They are suddenly released and are the same, exactly the same! With nothing new to offer new fans and not enough to appease the old, the album passed by without a blimp in my country and barely made an impact elsewhere.

There is no progression from the last albums; we have trance, metronomic percussions, minimalism to the maximum, ice cold sterile soundscapes, and not a blemish of human music. The robotic vocoder voices add to the starkness and reduction of post modern bleakness. Here is a dystopia of man melding with machine, the bicycles become fused to the man machine who pumps testosterone and power to drive the beast. The title track in particular captures the feel of ligaments melding with muscles and the synthesised keyboards excreting titanium and sweat. There are effects of breathing, putting The Mixture's Bicycle Song to shame, and even the cogs and the spokes of the machine are realised through the percussion blasts.

The album sparked a world tour in 2004, and the best way to hear these tracks I beleive is in the live versions on the CD or DVD of "Minimum Maximum". Indeed, after having shelved this in my collection, I was delighted to be reintroduced to the tracks through the DVD, which are far better versions. The clips are wonderful beamed on the massive screen shots of bikes racing, stylised graphics and retro animation.

The best songs are played in the concert, namely the title track, the hypnotic Aero Dynamik, the indelible Vitamin, and the electro starkness of Elektro Karidogramm. The tracks are interesting, robotic voices and strong driving percussion rhythms that are synthesised and sterile. The forgettable blur of Chrono, Titanium and Le Forme left my brain the moment they ended and the versions of Tour de France Étape 1, 2 and 3 made little sense to me. One version is quite enough. It would have been better had the track been one lengthy track rather than all these variations. One great drawcard of this is the special bonus of a video clip of the title track which is retro and delightfully original. The booklet is similar showing scenes from the clip and very stylised artwork creating a distinct atmosphere.

So it is with sadness that I review this last album from one of my favourite bands with only 3 stars. It should have been so much better given the long hiatus away from recording, but the band can now live off their past glories and the stage show and set list is proof positive of the indelible mark Kraftwerk have had upon the electro scene and the entire New Wave movement.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 3/5 |


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