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Kraftwerk - Electric Café [Aka: Techno Pop] CD (album) cover




Progressive Electronic

2.51 | 130 ratings

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2 stars Following the release of Computer World, Kraftwerk enjoyed their highest public profile in several years. They undertook a successful international tour and enjoyed a surprise hit single in the UK with The Model (originally released as a b side) some 3 years after the Man Machine first came out. The charts were full of Kraftwerk inspired bands like OMD, The Human League and Depeche Mode. With the music world seemingly at their feet, Kraftwerk promptly disappeared from view almost completely. One 12" single of new material - Tour de France - was all that emerged from Kling Klang studios until Electric Cafe came out 5 years after their last album of original material.

In some ways Electric Cafe is an almost perfect album for its time, a glossy but vacuous celebration of nothing much apart from itself. Perhaps Kraftwerk were being ironic or making a conceptual point, but Electric Cafe is their weakest release to date. The first half of the album, though nominally divided into three tracks, is one of those lengthy journeys that they undertook so successfully on earlier albums, with recurring themes and a common musical thread. Things start promisingly with Boing Boom Tschak, where Ralf and Florian sing their trademark drum machine sounds. Gradually the track fills with their characterisitic electronica and the theme - Techno Pop (the album's original title) - emerges. This is then worked through various permutations over the next couple of tracks. As a celebration of the electronic sound that they helped to define it's highly successful, but the melodic gift that they displayed on earlier albums seemed to desert them (though these tracks work well live, as can be heard on Minimum Maximum).

The second half of the album is even less inspired. The Telephone Call features Karl Bartos' only lead vocal on a Kraftwerk release and it actually sounds like The Human League or the late 80s Cabaret Voltaire doing a Kraftwerk parody. To compound matters, this drags on for 8 uninspired minutes. Kraftwerk had previously been innovators in the use of found sounds and musique concrete, but the telephone sounds used on the backing track had been used by everyone from the Big Bopper (Chantilly Lace) to ELO (Telephone Line) before them. Sex Object follows, a bizarre and slightly confusing follow up/riposte to The Model, while Electric Cafe closes the proceedings to a close with a sort of reprise of the first half of the album.

If you're a fan of 80s synth based pop music Electric Cafe has its moments, but compared to the albums from Autobahn to Computer World it sounds like a pale reflection of former glories. One for diehard fans only.

Syzygy | 2/5 |


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