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

TRANS-EUROPE EXPRESS [AKA: TRANS-EUROPA EXPRESS]

Kraftwerk

Progressive Electronic


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Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Caught between the full frontal technology-oriented harshness of "Radio-Activity" and the stylish, colourful amalgam of "The Man-Machine", "Trans-Europe Express" stands as a kind of compromise between the respective general outlines of both aforementioned albums. It is clear that the band is more confident than ever before about their own peculiar musical trend, so they can now expand their scheme and enrich it with a series of melodic structures and expanding their ideas (therefore, making their tracks a bit longer). 'Europe Endless' celebrates the clichés comprised in the prototype of European dandy, with an unhidden touch of glamour in the synth lead lines and textures, as well as in the catchy pattern delivered by the two percussionists on their electronic devices. It's like a train ride through the most Cosmopolitan parts of Europe, seen through the combined eyes of a tourist pleased to see what is portrayed in postcards and a local gentleman that manages to make his way into the contemporary world while yearning for a golden past - in fact, I think that this different contemporary world is alluded by the vocoderized vocals in the additional harmonies. I strongly suspect that this celebration is mostly a statement of irony, perhaps a cruel wake-up call to all those old- fashioned snobs who still set the Belle Epoque as an example of joie de vivre. However, the gentle orchestrations don't sound cruel at all, but mesmeric and, overtly, elegant. The mesmeric factor is further explored and increased in 'The Hall of Mirrors', a modern Narcissus tale that portrays a great young movie star who finds himself captivated by his own beauty and gets trapped among the countless reflections of himself: maybe this is where Kraftwerk state their criticism against the old-fashioned European dandy's self-indulgence. Anyway, this track's most notable features are the clever use of hypnotic synth sequences and the recurring footstep-sounding percussives: the former portray the circular prison of narcissism, while the latter add a "thriller" element to the fold, showing how dreadful the main character's impending fate is. Effective sinister stuff wrapped in an electronic minimalistic cover. With 'Showroom Dummies' Kraftwerk return to the high spirit of the opening title, albeit a bit closer to disco music: the Pygmalion-esque story of boutique dummies who come alive and go party seems to me like a postlude reflection on the European dandy ideology - all that is left of it from the last quarter of the 20th century onwards is a plastic exposure, with nothing real underneath. Then comes the title track, a powerful musical ride of intensity and monotony that includes an aggressive percussive section ('Metal on Metal'): this number takes a clear hint to the "Radio-Activity" stuff, albeit with an increased sense of oppressiveness. The recurrent explosive keyboard orchestrations are provided an exciting contrast by the repeated vocoderized choruses: it is in these specific moment that this track becomes the definitive epitome of the album's artistic direction. This one ends with the harsh noise of a train stopping and lots of people coming down, which serves as an effective contrast against the following number, a homage to Franz Schubert titled after the classical composer himself. The eerie synth soundscapes articulated with floating sequences and dreamy layers conjure images of past splendour. until the 'Endless Endless' litany emerges to remind us, once again, that the current world is a very different one. This is a very good album, almost excellent, but falls short in comparison to "Autobahn" or "The Man-Machine" - 3 to 3 ½ stars.
Report this review (#34611)
Posted Thursday, April 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Following the slightly rushed Radioactivity, Kraftwerk took a bit longer to polish up this offering, which also saw Florian Schneider contributing less to the songwriting. The result was not quite a concept album; the theme of European travel is explored, but only on about half of the songs. it's also an album which was released in both English language and German versions, and in many ways the German version is more effective.

The album opens with one of Kraftwerk's grand electronic travelogues, Europe Endless, a kind of Grand Tour for the synthesiser age. With a fast midtempo beat and simple melodies seemingly plucked from the air, this is Kraftwerk at their best - not a beat or a syllable is extraneous. This is followed by the faintly sinister Hall Of Mirrors, a modern day story of Narcissus as re told by Will Self or JG Ballard. As is often the case with Karftwerk, the devil is in the details. This is an achingly minimal piece, the beat supplied by plodding electronic footsteps wearily seeking an exit that will never be found. The half spoken, half sung lyrics are translated effectively from the original German, but unless you're fluent only the English language version will make sense. The first half of the album closes with the uptempo Showroom Dummies, in which Kraftwerk exhibit the sly sense of humour which pervades some of their work. The story of showroom dummies going to a disco could be an old episode of Twilight Zone, or possibly Kraftwerk having fun at the expense of their own image. This is a track whic actually works better in German, even if you can't understand tthe lyrics.

Side 2 continues the European exploration theme with the title track, a hymn to the huge trains on which so many young Europeans explored their continent while interrailing. The rhythm is the sound of wheels on the track, as old as boogie woogie and at the same time as futuristic as the space shuttle. The lyrics are part travelogue and part reportage with some shameless name dropping - 'Meet Iggy Pop and David Bowie' (which actually happened). As on Autobahn, the doppler effect is simulated when the train passes through a station and other simulated sounds add to the atmosphere. This then segues into Metal on Metal, an instrumental which incorporates some of Kraftwerk's musique concrete influences, until after 13 minutes the brakes are applied and the mighty express reaches its destination. The album draws to a close with Franz Schubert, an eccentric but sincere tribute to the great composer whic recalls Ohm Sweet Ohm from the previous album and which again demonstrates their facility with melody. A brief reprise of Europe Endless rounds things off nicely.

TEE is something of a critic's favourite but is a bit uneven. It was hugely influential in all kinds of unlikely ways; Siouxsie and the Banshees did a cover version of Hall of Mirrors, while the title track was much sampled in the early days of hip hop. Greater artistic and commercial success was still to come.

Report this review (#34613)
Posted Monday, May 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Hard to understand the quibbling about this album- more sophisticated than "Autobahn" and less overtly dance-pop than "Man-Machine", it is a sublime mood album. The title song alone makes this album a must-have for any fan of the band. By the way, anyone further interested in its peculiarly European melancholia should check out Christian Fennesz' "Venice": Prog? I don't know, but sonically progressive? Ja, ja!
Report this review (#34614)
Posted Monday, May 9, 2005 | Review Permalink
theinfiltrate
5 stars Kraftwerk's best (at least from those I heard already). Possibly one of the first "synth pop" albums, but if that's the case, then this is the best one of the genre. The first 4 songs are amazing. They all have great and catchy vocal melodies, good synth riffs (especially "Europe Endless" and "Showroom Dummies"), and sound really interesting since they create some interesting moods (especially "The Hall Of Mirrors", the darkest song here). The title track is amazing, but the main synth's riff sounds too abrassive. "Metal On Metal" is like a coda for the title track, and I don't enjoy it as much, but it's good anyway. The last 2 songs are nowhere near as good though.
Report this review (#34615)
Posted Thursday, May 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is a great album and a musical revolution one of the first synth albums where all the instruments on the album is synthesizers and what a great one this is, its very good driving music perfect if your on a jerney somewhere in buss, car or train and especially train becaus thats what the album is about realy, Kraftwerk where truly a great band and not afraid for experimenting with synth sounds, this is and "The man machine" is probobly their 2 greatest works and most influential albums. The first song europe endless is yust great a long beautiful balladish tune withe a good melody, then comes the rather creepy Hall of mirrors and i love the spooky sounds and the robotic plastic vocals, yust awsome. Showe rome dummies is next a realy strange track my least favorite on the labum but still not bad, and then we have the real masterpiece on the album the long and great title track, its a Very haunting song i love the synth beat yust fantastic, metal on metal is part 2 of the song withe some hammers baning on metal sounds, Franz Schubert is a short instrumental a beat repeted over and over again and its rather good, and the closing track is a reprise of europe endless and so ends a great album and an fantastic jerney, this was a realy ground bracking album when it came out and it have aged very well i think, its still sounds very good and futuristic too day as it must have done when it was first realesed. A highly recomended album if you love the sound of synthesizers. No wait, this is a must have for everyone if you like good music this is for you, everybody must have this. I am sure you will love it yust as i do.
Report this review (#36708)
Posted Thursday, June 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
horza
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I've liked Kraftwerk for many years now. I remember hearing Autobahn as a youngster and being intrigued by their sound. Their minimalist approach and sythesised beats have always appealed to me. It made a change from the other bands I listened to and that alone made me a fan. I could have chosen any one of a number of Kraftwerks albums to revew, from The Man Machine to Computer World, but this one sneaked in as my favourite. Europe Endless and Trans Europe Express pass by effortlessly, almost hynoptic but never dull. Kraftwerk albums take you on a journey, and going back on the journey is never a chore.
Report this review (#49897)
Posted Monday, October 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
philippe
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars It was the first album I bougth from the band, before to discover their earliest efforts in free experimentations and minimal improvisations. "Trans Europe Express" is clearly among Kraftwerk's most popular efforts (according to me it belongs to a trilogy with "Autobahn" and "The Man Machine", published during the same period). This album is my favourite from their complex and clinical electronic pop era. The general ambience delivers a "glacial seduction" with clever arrengements and efficient, always recognizable melodies. The title track is amazingly progressive and minimalist at the same time, a very enigmatic epic, mechanical composition with hypnotic drum machines and mysterious synth waves. "Europe Endless" looks like more to humorous and catchy pop acts written by the band with an album as "Computer World" (also the cheesy parts of "Autobahn", recorded a few years before and which remains the turning point of Kraftwerk career). "The Hall of Mirrors" is a futuristic, dark electronic hymn with non emotional vocals. "Showroom dummies" is in the same mood, but much more expressive and spacey. "Franz Schubert" is a simplistic, melodic synth exercise within a primitive organic energy. To sum up things, "Trans Europe Express" features beautiful, easy listening electronic movements with the typical Kraftwerk signature.
Report this review (#135519)
Posted Thursday, August 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Und jetzt, meinen Damen und Herren, von Paris nach Istambul, Trans Europ Express" ! I guess this album means a lot to me, having crossed Europe on the Orient Express in 1966 with my mom, the memories remaining vivid. To dismiss these crafty teutonics as simplistic synth-pop is a gross injustice, as they created music in the mid-70s that frankly was already the sound of the 22nd century (what sounds more futuristic, this 1977 masterpiece or the pseudo drivel that parades as music today?) . Everything here is "Perfekt": Modern/Retro artwork, all the tracks are stunners, the 4 musicians excel at weaving this organized and mechanical splendor. The title track "T.E.E" is majestically propellant, mimicking the beat of the train and anyone who has taken one on any kind of lengthy voyage will smile at the precision (so typically German) of the cadence, as the iron wheels "klang" over the iron rails in a never ending metronome beat. "Metal on Metal" is the caboose that never lets go and an "über hochlicht" (super highlight) that remains a universal classic. Just like with the previous and world famous "Autobahn", the listener becomes a traveler on a railroad journey, heavily ensconced in the heady atmospherics that characterize the Kraftwerkian credo. "The Hall of Mirrors" is drenched in a disturbing robotic melancholia, a bubbling dirge of unreflective beauty, egoism laced with scorn and apathy. "Showroom Dummies" is a self deprecating critique of the material age, complete with inanely gloomy lyrics, an astute combination of technology and rebellion that took electronic rock to an entirely other level that Tangerine Dream or the other Cosmic Jokers. Kraftwerk was never about space, the cosmos or Start Trek but rather brutally mocking the regimented coldness of modern society where emotions are replaced with buttons and dials. Which is why they remain vital and a huge influence on so many future styles. Just when the locomotive arrives at the ultra doom station, the mood is marshaled into a more pseudo classical composition, the lushly romantic "Franz Schubert", where the theme bears a more symphonic veneer while remaining drenched in sequence-heavy rhythms. The short disc ends on an endless "Endless Endless". Not their best (Man Machine takes that honor) but deserving of four diesels .
Report this review (#164670)
Posted Saturday, March 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars What an amazing album of electronic music! I absolutely adore this album. Kraftwerk's driving electronic sound is brilliant here. The only other Kraftwerk album I have (so far) is The Man Machine, but Tran-Europe Express is far superior. This album is dark and often has a very even motorik beat. It is also slightly experimental.

The epic Europe Endless is first, and is amazing. It really gives that European feeling, and serves as a lengthy prologue to the journey that this album is. Hall of Mirrors is next. This song is more dark and minimalistic. There is a hollow feeling on this song that draws us into the shallow world of celebrity. Showroom Dummies is next: a real highlight. This again has a dark opressive feeling, but this time more robotic, being somewhat a precursor of the next album's The Robots. The title track is the real centrepiece of the album. It takes us on a train journey across Europe, meeting Iggy Pop and David Bowie. Metal on Metal follows straight on, starting off as an instrumental including train sound effects, ending with the line 'trans-europe express' repeated ad nauseum to great effect. Franz Schubert is the next piece and is totally instrumental. This piece has floating pleasant melodies in place of the intense beats of the rest of the album. Endless Endless is a short outro that brings the album full circle.

This whole album is a brilliant piece of electronic music history and all should hear it at least once. Five Stars.

Report this review (#183644)
Posted Friday, September 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars If ever you would hate the synth-pop of the eighties, one might well say that this album is best to be avoided but I wouldn't say so.

''Kraftwerk'' did invent the style and were far better inspired than lots of followers (although I liked some of the genuine ones like OMD for instance).

One shouldn't necessarily look for diversity and craziness in this album: just a fine musical moment which was maybe not ahead of its time any longer at the time of release (they were quite repeating themselves after ''Autobahn'' and ''Radio Activity'') but still funny for the rioting teenager I was back then (''White Riot'').

The same repetitive and obsessed beat during the long ''Europe Endless'' which I would have liked to get in their previous effort (''Radio Activity'') which was more made of short tracks. On the contrary, this album holds longer compositions. I'm not going to tell you that this will bring more variety to their music, but at least it will help developing their repetitive sounds to a certain limit (the maximum was reached during ''Autobahn'' of course).

As I have said previously, I was never embarrassed with the choice of language in terms of ''Kraftwerk'' lyrics. Was it a German release? Fine. An English one? Fine as well. Since English recordings were much more widespread hence cheaper, I was confronted with the latter version back then.

Some songs are on the boring side to tell you the truth (''Hall of Mirrors'', ''Showroom Dummies''). No feeling, little melody and no need to tell you: no passion. A cold German stuff, no more. But this will lead to the whole cold wave which will invade Europe some three years later and to which I was quite receptive (but only to a short list of bands).

I quite like the glorious title track and its famous phrase: ''From Station To Station back to Dusseldorf City, Meet Iggy Pop and David Bowie''. It sounds as a kind of homage back to dear old David who was deeply inspired by ''Kraftwerk'' (at least it is how I feel) while he was recording ''Low'' (but as may people, I consider ''Station To Station'' as the start of the ''Berlin Trilogy'').

This is in any case a fine way to be grateful to another artist who was deeply influenced by some of their previous recordings. The second leg of the song ''Metal On Metal'' is almost as irresistible.

I wouldn't say that this is a major step forward in the history of music (being electronic). The band had done it already prior to this one. Still, it is a good album which deserves an attentive ear from anyone who would like to discover the European electronic music.

Three stars.

Report this review (#196487)
Posted Tuesday, December 30, 2008 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Trans-Europe Express (Trans-Europa Express)" is the 6th full-length studio album by German experimental electronic pop/rock act Kraftwerk. The album was released through Kling Klang Records in March 1977. The transformation from a krautrock act to an electronic pop/rock act which began with "Autobahn (1974)" and continued on "Radio-Activity (Radio-Aktivität) (1975)" is now more or less complete and to my ears "Trans-Europe Express (Trans-Europa Express)" is the first consistent electronic pop/rock effort by Kraftwerk.

The music on the album features simple and memorable synth and keyboard themes on top of repetitive electronic beats. I´m not sure how those beats were created, but they sound very futuristic considering that this album was released in 1977. There are vocals on some tracks, Mostly repeating one or two lyric lines throughout a whole song. The vocals are both processed robotic voices and "normal" singing. This is very repetitive music and with little in the soundscape that sound like an organic instrument. Again this is a very futuristic sounding album. The album features several highlights of which "Showroom Dummies" is one of them, but my favorites here are without a doubt "Trans Europa Express" and "Metal on Metal", which "Trans Europa Express" seques into. The pair are such powerful and dark electronic pop tracks. Relentless pounding electronic beats, repetitive vocal lines and a dark atmosphere to boot.

The production is clear and powerful and overall "Trans-Europe Express (Trans-Europa Express)" is a very enjoyable and quite intriguing electronic pop album. It´s incredible how innovative Kraftwerk were in those days. They took musical chances like few and the boldness of it all is just extremely charming. A 4.5 star (90%) rating is deserved.

Report this review (#240977)
Posted Wednesday, September 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Trans-Europe Express is Kraftwerk's most acclaimed album- one of the only albums on Rolling Stone's Top 500 from a non-English speaking country, in Pitchfork Media's top ten 70's albums, and often considered one of the building blocks of electronica and even rap, this album has earned it's share of praise over the years. This is because it is a unique, satisfying, consistently great album by one of electronica's best.

Europe Endless is a very upbeat, happy tune, which perfectly conveys the feeling of a tour of Europe- seeing all the great things, great people, and great areas. It's well-made, and though it lasts 9 minutes, it doesn't drag at all- you're completely sucked in, like being on a little trip of your own.

Hall of Mirrors harkens back to the days of Radio-Activity, right down to the shaking synth notes that it begins with. It's a very ominous, scary song, with various noises being layered on top of each other to build an atmosphere.

Showroom Dummies is incredibly cheesy, yet it miraculously manages to work- it's the closest Kraftwerk's gotten to pop at this point. Though it's cheesy, it's fun to listen to, and the artificial chorus effects give it Kraftwerk's signature ominous sound.

I treat Trans-Europe Express and Metal on Metal as one single entity, which is a logical evolution on what Autobahn's title track started. TEE starts with repetitive drumming, like the thuds of a train running on metal tracks, as electric whispers alternate with amazing synthesizer parts that fly with the music like trees going by. A bit after Metal on Metal comes, the drum pattern that dominated for seven minutes dies, and the synthesizer washes come to the forefront.

Franz Schubert is a happy, positive song, not really much to say besides the fact that there's no pulsing drum rhythm here, just synths and more synths in this piece named for the Austrian composer. And finally, Endless Endless continues Franz Schubert's upbeat synth rhythm alongside distorted vocals.

This behemoth of an album earns every bit of the praise it garners from musical critics, and it's surprising to know that it came out in the 70's. It's influence has proved great over the years, and it is truly a force to be reckoned with. Five stars for the legend.

Report this review (#247716)
Posted Sunday, November 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
4 stars After two visionary but hard to enjoy albums, Kraftwerk finally hit their stride with Trans-Europe Express. We can forgive them it took so long. After all, they are one of the very rare artists in rock history that have crafted something entirely new and truly original without next to nothing as example. TEE came after a two year break which they must have used to come to grips with equipment that was more suitable to execute their vision. Add 7 accomplished songs to that and magic happens.

Kraftwerk has a cold and distant sound, but if you claim there is no emotion in this music then you haven't heard The Hall Of Mirrors or Showroom Dummies. Even silly lyrics included those are bleak and gripping songs with an irresistible mix of subtle playfulness and understated melancholy.

Europe Endless and Trans-Europe Express are the more techno-oriented tracks. The beats are still rather tame but the blue-print for techno is there: sound effects and short catchy melodies on an entrancing beat. That's all it takes. And if the preceding music wasn't ground-breaking enough yet, with Metal on Metal they even dip their feet into a style that would lead to EBM and industrial music in the 80's and 90's.

With a little moog sequence and mellotron, Franz Schubert does a little nod to the kraut sound of previous albums. It's a nice way to end this astonishing album.

I intended to give only their Minimum Maximum 5 stars but while hearing this for the review I find it hard to resist. After all, it's their most revolutionary and accomplished album. By the way, I also like the original album art a lot. Those short and cute haircuts, the distant posture. Yes, the 80's were just around the corner!

Report this review (#251000)
Posted Monday, November 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
3 stars "Trance Europe Express... Trance Europe Express... Trance Europe Express..."

'Trans Europe Express' is an interesting Kraftwerk album as it centres around two excellent tracks and a whole swag of mediocrity that is cheesy and rather shallow in structure. It is a pity relay as the title track is a definitive prog statement with massive techno ambience and entrancing repetitive synth motifs.

The track perfectly captures the feeling of a long monorail or train in full flight, complete with click clacking percussion and haunting diesel horn effects. The other great track on the album is 'Europe Endless' clocking in at 9 and a half minutes it is a triumph of techno pop.

The other tracks do not measure up to these classics but still have moments. Curiously one of the most memorable is the chilling 'Endless Endless' with its computer faced vocals and echoed repetitions. There is not much to this track, the vocals dominate all, but it stays with you.

Unfortunately there is not much else I can recommend. 'Showroom Dummies; was never a favourite and I still do not like the structure of this poppy quirky ditty. In any case the album is worth a listen for the aforementioned tracks.

The greatness for Kraftwerk was yet to come. 3 stars minimum.

Report this review (#276785)
Posted Wednesday, April 7, 2010 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Schubert catches a train

The commercial success of "Autobahn" and "Radio activity" was the catalyst for a fundamental change in the artistic focus of Kraftwerk. The band enjoyed the limelight they found themselves in and moved to make further inroads into the pop charts. Gone therefore were any remaining vestiges of pure Krautrock, to be replaced by strong rhythmic electronic beats, and synth sounds which were pleasing on the ear and radio friendly. The band retained a cold and aloof image to complement the mechanical nature of their preferred sound, but this was all part of the hype.

When "Radio activity" failed to enjoy the same level of success as "Autobahn", a major investment was made in upgrading the band's studios and a conscious effort was made to spend the required time on composing melodies which an audience could latch onto and remember. So was born "Trans-Europe express", an album which unashamedly borrows on the long distance travel concept of Autobahn, while delivering shorter, more accessible tracks.

The opening "Europe Endless" (originally intended as the album's title too), features slightly more melodic singing than on previous albums, but more noticeably a synth melody which is captivating to the extent of almost being whistleable. The singing though becomes even more relevant on the following "The hall of mirrors" which mixes spoken word with Anglicised vocals of the type which featured on songs by band bands such as Visage and Tubeway Army (Gary Numan). The underlying synth beats are of the type favoured by Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre, the minimalism being disguised by occasional synth soloing.

The third of the three tracks which constitute a lengthy first side is "Showroom dummies", a song which along with "Europe endless" was released as a single. (The releasing of two singles confirms both the band's desire for singles success, and the radically more commercial nature of the product.) The track, which was written to reflect a critical comment about the band's on stage appearance, is a sort of dance version of "Radio activity".

The second side of the album takes three separate compositions and and merges them into a mini-suite. The title track forms the first part of the suite, the concept being based around a long distance train journey. That concept is largely portrayed through rhythmic themes and sounds, not lyrical description. Fanfare like polyphonic synths (still a novelty at the time) are interspersed with persistent repetition of the album title. It may all sound a bit laboured and indeed dated today, but at the time of its release this was pioneering stuff. "Metal on Metal" does indeed begin with the sound of saucepans being hit with metal spoons before soldiering on with the main theme of the suite. The train finally stops at the end of this section, the third main section being dedicated to the composer "Franz Schubert" (who presumably once travelled on a long distance train but never thought to compose a symphony about it!). This part is more Tangerine Dream like than anything the band had created up to this point, the floating synths and soft wandering rhythm combining to form something ambient but pleasant. The album closes with a brief, fading continuation of "Franz Schubert" cunningly entitled "Endless Endless".

"Trans Europe express" represents a major shift in the focus of Kraftwerk. Purists will scream "sell out" and to some extent they are right. This is though a natural development for the band, and was by far their most accomplished album up to that point. More importantly, it is also a very enjoyable album.

Report this review (#293079)
Posted Monday, August 2, 2010 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
3 stars From station to station

After the disaster that was Radio-Activity, which consisted of a couple of simple, catchy Synth Pop tunes amongst a multitude of failed sound experiments, Kraftwerk pulled themselves together to produce a worthy follow up to Autobahn. With Trans-Europe Express they build on the formula of Autobahn, but this time it is not about automobiles and motorways but instead about trains and railways.

The whole of the original second vinyl side of the album forms a suite based on the concept of Trans-Europe Express which was a European railway service network that at its maximum extent, in 1974, comprised 45 trains, connecting 130 different cities (thank you Wikipedia for that information). In the title track that opens this suite, they describe (in extremely minimalistic terms) a train journey from Paris to Vienna and then to Düsseldorf (where this album was recorded) where they meet David Bowie and Iggy Pop! As far as I know, this meeting between the group and Bowie actually took place and the line "from station to station" in the lyrics to Trans-Europe Express is said to refer to the Bowie album of that name. Metal On Metal is Kraftwerk's attempt to mimic the actual sound of a train, and this rhythmic sound experiment is surprisingly listenable and forms a nice passage in the suite. While not quite as satisfying as the Autobahn title track, the Trans-Europe Express suite is one of Kraftwerk's most successful and progressive compositions.

The first half of the album is equally satisfying and the almost ten minute Europe Endless is another highlight of Kraftwerk's career. Even this song is thematically connected with the train concept and describes what can be seen out of the windows of the train while travelling through Europe. If you ever go on a train journey from Paris to Vienna, expect to see both elegance and decadence! It would have been interesting to see if they could have incorporated the whole Europe Endless into the suite on the other side of the album, but they do indeed refer back to the opening track at the very end of the album.

The remaining two tracks of side one are however entirely unconnected to the overall concept of the album. This can perhaps be seen as a small distraction, but these are fine songs in their own right. In Hall Of Mirrors we get to hear more vocals than usual and even the lyrics are more elaborate and reflective than we are used to from Kraftwerk. This is another highlight for me. Showroom Dummies is the album's hit song, but as such it is much better than the more famous The Model.

Trans-Europe Express was to my mind the pinnacle of Kraftwerk's creative but uneven career.

Report this review (#293560)
Posted Friday, August 6, 2010 | Review Permalink
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!

Report this review (#401364)
Posted Tuesday, February 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
colorofmoney91
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Trans-Europe Express ultimately comes off as seeming like Autobahn's brother or partner. The concept is very similar (highway travel vs. railroad travel), and the music has a similar motor- like beat moving the album along its tracks to the final destination point. The vocals as used in Autobahn are similar to the vocals here on the "Europe Endless", speaking in robo-zombie drones that let you know what the song title is, which are also followed by the experimental and developmental progressions of Autobahn. But, that's really only the first track that seems like a more sophisticated rehash from the Autobahn.

From the second track, "The Hall of Mirrors", we get some darker and more experimental robo- electro that sounds very deep and oppressed. I only have the German version of this album, so while the lyrics are completely oblivious to me, they definitely sound more man-like and depressing, leading me to believe that this is probably one of the gloomier tracks in the Kraftwerk catalog. "Showroom Dummies" continues in the same way, mostly, but with a stronger emphasis its forceful beat. It's one of the more classic tracks, and is very dance-able, but it doesn't sound nearly optimistic enough. The title-track continues this oppressed feeling followed by forceful beat, and by now it should be recognizable that this is another very dark and dead sounding robotic album. "Metal on Metal" has a distinct industrialized feel to it, with the kling-klang of metal on metal, as the title suggests, but really isn't abrasive. The only track on this album that really stands out as filler to me is "Franz Schubert". The name suggests possibly great, romantic composition full of color, but is really just a constant boring beat with minimalistic drones over the top. Nothing colorful here.

This album is really great, especially for fans looking for what is basically a darker and more sinister version of Autobahn.

Report this review (#438045)
Posted Saturday, April 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Trans-Europe Express is Kraftwerk's first absolute masterpiece in the electronic format. Stark, minimalist, and haunting, with tracks verging on Goth-electronic (The Hall of Mirrors and Showroom Dummies in particular), the band present an impeccably produced and striking proto-cyberpunk sound which would have a massive impact on dance music, industrial music, electro-rock and everything in between. Put it this way: take every major user of synthesisers in rock music who emerged since this album came out. Remove all the synth wizards who went a deliberately retro-route to recapture the sounds of the 1970s. Remove all of them who took a slick, commercial, MTV-pop approach to synths of the sort that was inexplicably popular in the 1980s. The guys you have left - the Gary Numans, the Trent Reznors, the M83s and so on? More or less all of them have been influenced by this album to one extent or another. It might not be prog the way traditionalists define it, but I know genius when I see it.
Report this review (#554218)
Posted Friday, October 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
Dobermensch
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Thankfully I bought the one with the über cool locomotive sleeve and not the poncey English version. As if things couldn't get any better, they sing in Deutsche Schprechen!

The electronics sound surprisingly primitive, even for 1977, considering the sounds Jean Michel Jarre was using one year previously on his groundbreaking 'Oxygene'.

'Europa Endlos' has that 'motorik' beat that was initiated by 'Neu!' , but is punctuated by electronic percussion which prevent it becoming stale. The emotionless, almost android approach of Ralf Hütter help things enormously, as they are so unobtrusive and sexless.

The best track is the 2nd - 'Spiegelsaal' - a cold repetitive slab of echoey doom, reminiscent of Ultravox's 'Mr X' from 1980. This is probably Kraftwerk's darkest album which has a similar feel to early 80' 'Cure' and 'John Foxx'.

The title track emits more of that ice cold feeling that no-one at that time but Germans could produce. Repetitive percussion played in the style of train wheels rotating is pretty much what you get for the next 15 mins . Flangers are used liberally creating a strange whirly atmosphere.

The only problem with this album is that it sounds pre-historic in this day and age, particularly that Oberheim keyboard. But somehow it sounds timeless and is something of an antique. A piece of furniture that is treasured which you dare not touch in fear of defiling it.

Report this review (#594785)
Posted Friday, December 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
EatThatPhonebook
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 8/10

"Trans Europe Express" is one of the very best Kraftwerk albums, that is in between the shy Proto Synth Pop sounds of the previous works and the uber confidence of "The Man Machine".

The way to 'Trans Europe Express' was a pretty long one for Kraftwerk; starting from the more na've sounding first albums, to then reaching a more distinct and unique style ('Authobahn') that included solely Electronic sounds, making them an Electronic band all the way. But only with 'The Man Machine' the band obtain a sound that is impressively modern. 'Trans Europe Express', even though just a step away from full development, is probably the album that best represents the band, halfway between the shy experiments with Pop music on both 'Autobahn' and 'Radio-Activity' and the uber-confident, extremely lively and robotic 'The Man Machine'.

'Trans Europe Express' seem to have got much more aggression and darkness since 'Radio-Activity': the metallic, synth sounds that we were used to hearing are still there, the music still repetitive, the vocals still minimalistic. However, the attitude they have towards the music seems to be almost going-somewhat- with the musical current of 1977, the year where Punk Rock reached it's peak. The sounds are much more twisted and dark, even though they alternate with lighter melodies that remind much more of earlier Kraftwerk. It is evident though how the band has managed to change distinctively their approach towards this kind of music, bringing the Electronic, proto-Synth Pop sounds into a more Progressive Electronic direction, inserting in a few spots some sparks of Ambient music. Krautrock roots, obviously, are never let go.

'Trans Europe Express' is a strange beast among Kraftwerk's discography, yet, an album that perfectly represents the common concepts the band has in their music and lyrics: robots, technology, alienation among society, highways and roads. The future world where there is no nature, just metal surrounding us. Fiercely dystopian with a surreal joyfulness, Kraftwerk's music has managed to screw and unscrew different emotions that seem to be alien, but in reality are more human than a heart beat.

Masterfully constructed, 'Trans Europe Express' offers on the first side three of the greatest Kraftwerk songs: 'Europe Endless' contrasts the moods of the following tracks with a cheerful, trance-like synth loop that is the core of the entire song, with a beautiful, memorable melody and the usual soft and tender vocals. It would have easily been a cut from an album like 'Autobahn'. But then comes 'The Hall Of Mirrors', that has an almost creepy mood, minimalistic synth, and more confident vocals. 'Showroom Dummies' on the other hand gives more drama, with even more insistent vocals and an obsessive melody, much more twisted than the first track. It is though on the second side of the LP that Kraftwerk explore completely strange and new territories: the title track is the creepiest Kraftwerk song yet, with robotic vocals, almost horror-like melodies, a filtered beat that sort of resembles a moving train. After the musical continuation of the title track, 'Metal On Metal', the instrumental 'Franz Schubert' once again gives a cheerful and more trance-like atmosphere that brings the album to an outstanding conclusion.

'Trans Europe Express' is still proud to have some familiarities with Synth Pop, but with a creepy smile it dares the listener to hop on a ride they will never forget. Cerebral in it's repetition, it's easy to say that this album has reached classic status, a landmark achievement for Electronic music, the kind that goes beyond borders.

Report this review (#649594)
Posted Wednesday, March 7, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Well, out of all of the Kraftwerk to review first, I decide that Trans-Europa Express is my best option, seeing as it has several of my favorites on it. Now, before I begin I must note that Kraftwerk was stuck in a limbo-like state, due to the more mainstream sound of Radio- Activity and the still remaining experimentation of Autobahn. So they ultimately decided to take a slice of both cakes and put them on the same plate. Thank god that plate didn't fall out of their hand only for the cake to make a large pile of frosting and disappointment. All similies aside, onto the review.

The album starts out with the most known track, 'Europe Endless', which reminds me of the same traveling tunes that 'Autobahn' had some of. Both are free-flowing, giving the sense of travel and adventure. They are quite nice for a car ride, or in this case, a train ride in the morning. 'Showroom Dummies' has a basic beat with a what sounds like one-man choir singing in the backround throughout the song. The song speaks of, you guessed it, the viewpoint of shop window (or in this case showroom) mannequins. It is quite interesting upon listen, it's actually one of my favorite tracks from the album. The second most known song would have to be the title track, 'Trans Europe Express', with groovy fluctuations and synth blasts. The song is undoubtedly a foot tapper, and is actually an interesting listen. This song perhaps may be my favorite song on the album (and perhaps my favorite Kraftwerk song besides 'Sex Object' from Electric Cafe). 'Metal on Metal' has the exact same beat, except this time there's different strange noises thrown in. 'Abzug' continues the similar beat, even going to far to have the same line of "...Trans- Europe Express...". Except this time, it's slightly less creative due to the lack of most any other words. This is my main problem with the album. If you're trying to have a creative album, especially one that mainly uses electronic elements, don't make a large majority of the tracks base off of eachother. Having 'Trans-Europe Express' alone would be better without these two copy songs.

'Franz Schubert' provides not much in the way of different music, in fact it's sort of bland in the way of music on this album. A nice ambient electronic track, but in no means matching the sound of the other songs. 'Endless Endless' is a really nice way to end the album, with the same free-feel that the album opener gave us. Listening to it just reminds me of a city- scape speeding by under a sky of blue. It's a quite nice little minute-long ditty.

So there you have it. Although Trans Europe Express may not be as known as Autobahn, The Man Machine, or even Computer World, I think it deserves a space up there with the bigger Kraftwerk releases.

Go give it a listen.

Report this review (#1323870)
Posted Saturday, December 13, 2014 | Review Permalink
admireArt
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars A highly cheesy approach to synth pop which found its way to trascend through an awesome iconic like visual concept beyond its mere boring and simplistic songwriting. KFRAFTWERK was like a joke which became relevant to most of its followers to the point of idolatry.

Most of these Trans-Europe Express, 1977, tracks repeat KRAFTWERK's formula - short sequencer riffs , electro-drumming and the "happy" hooks they are well known for. I myself have always felt disappointed with KRAFTWERK's highly inventive visual/marketing concept and the middle of the road music they actually deliver. Sadly this release just confirms my quiet low expectations.

Anyway, lots of people get their kicks from these guys in some way or another, but I can't hardly distinguish one song from the other, aside from their monotonous robotic sung lyrics.

If you could not care less for their visual concept or biography but for the music itself, as I do, well leave it to its loyal followers to lend you a copy and buy, non PA included, ULTRAVOX's "HA!-HA!-HA!", far more daring and fun and released that same year.

**2.5 PA stars.

Report this review (#1538113)
Posted Thursday, March 10, 2016 | Review Permalink
TCat
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars By the release of 'Trans-Europe Express' in 1977, the most popular line up of Kraftwerk had been established and they were making their mark on the pop and electronic scene. The two founders were there, Ralf Hutler and Florian Schneider, and they were part of the well-established band along with Wolfgang Flur and Karl Bartos. Even though this line up had worked on previous albums which centered more around Krautrock, TEE moved towards a more melodic sound, and that sound fit in quite well with the upcoming new wave movement. The very famous first single, the title track, would propel them to world- wide fame.

The music would also end up influencing many artists to come, including modern day electronic artists. Their simple, synth- heavy music would pave the way for rave, ambience, and all types of electronica music. Even though the music was simple, the band was meticulous in making sure all of the sounds and textures were perfect and it usually took a lot of time and effort to finalize the tracks. Also, on this track, processed vocals were used quite extensively through the entire album.

'Europe Endless' was their theme to Europe and introduced their melodic and danceable sound to the masses in a 9+ minute track. With an unrelenting rhythm and a mysterious European sound, people were attracted to the simplicity, yet complexity of the music, the new sound that did not utilize any guitars, only synths, and the repeating themes and vocals only helped to propel the music to popularity. Towards the end of this track, you hear the main theme from TEE make its first appearance on the album.

The next two tracks, 'The Hall of Mirrors' and 'Showroom Dummies' continued with the simple, catchy and repetitious textures and lyrics, but moved more towards a more minimalist feel, and thus ambient dance music was born. Of course, there is the centerpiece of the album 'Trans-Europe Express' which emulates the sound of a train and the incredibly, and quite successfully, transmits to the listener the feel of traveling by train in Europe. I remember riding a train in Italy for close to 24 hours, and the soothing sounds of the train on the tracks and watching the full moon illuminate the country side as the train moved along. Shortly after, I heard this track for the first time, and was amazed at how perfect the feeling was captured in this track. Now every time I hear this track, even many years later, those memories come back so vividly, just like it happened yesterday, and I feel I am back on that train.

'Metal on Metal/Abzug' continues the theme of TEE by expanding it more and making it more ambient feeling as the train continues on. On some editions, the title 'Abzug' is left off even though the music is still there, and the total minutes are added to the Metal on Metal track. After this, 'Franz Schubert' follows with a more peaceful and soft melody accompanied by a simple repeating riff. 'Endless Endless' is tacked on to the end of this track and acts as a short coda or epilogue to the album.

This album is so simple, yet so beautifully and meticulously played, almost to the point of perfection. Nevermind the slightly tacky looking album cover that makes the band members look like a 50s or 60s doo-wop group like 'The Four Lads' or what have you, the music is quite daring for its time, and the fact that the world welcomed this sound and was inspired by it only strengthens the fact that this album and this band was immensely influential and still continue to be. This is definitely an essential album, especially when it comes to progressive electronica and the use of it in popular music through out the world.

Report this review (#2117360)
Posted Friday, January 11, 2019 | Review Permalink

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