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4 stars It's hard to think of another band that has had more influence on popular music over the last half century (for better or worse) than KRAFTWERK (okay, maybe TANGERINE DREAM but that's a debate for elsewhere). The Düsseldorf duo of Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider was fawned over by the likes of Iggy Pop and David Bowie, fêted by electronica gurus from downtown Tokyo to inner city Detroit, and once refused an invitation to collaborate with Michael Jackson (evidence of their enduring commitment to good taste).

Now the legendary electro-pop pioneers are back in the public eye after 17 years of hermetic reclusion, with their first album of a new Millennium they themselves helped to design over the previous three decades. And, happily, continuing almost exactly from where they left off, doing for competitive biking what earlier albums did for cars ("Autobahn") and trains ("Trans-Europe Express"). Is this the long overdue completion of a trilogy?

The band is still a foursome (of course only Ralf and Florian really count), and the sound, after all these years, is the same robot pop, but with a huge leap forward in refinement and maturity. Despite having so much historical baggage resting on their middle-aged shoulders, the duo manage to sidestep expectations by not even trying to compete with the new generation of electronic imitators and protégés sprouting up in their footsteps.

I'm sure they must have learned some new tricks, squirreled away for so long in the high-tech seclusion of their Kling-Klang studio. But they obviously felt no pressing obligation to defend their credentials with anything new or innovative, preferring instead to follow the old, reliable rule of "less is more", making their new music so childishly simple (and sometimes comically simplistic) that even a single chord change can sound like a major thematic development.

The result is a triumph of dance-floor minimalism, which doesn't exactly recommend it to a forum celebrating the sometimes baroque excesses of Prog Rock. Notice how much mileage (19 minutes worth, to be exact) the 5-track title "suite" gets from so little actual material. After a brief "Prologue" (three notes, each of them softer and more lush than the last) nothing much happens, but maybe that's the point: it's a musical representation of a long distance bike ride, and those wheels just keep spinning in the same circles.

The subsequent tracks may show more variety, but it's all relative, isn't it? You can expect more of the same subtle and repetitive melodies, over a similar hypnotic display of percussive blips and rhythmic pulses, all of it best heard from between a pair of comfortable headphones. The "lyrics" (and I use the term broadly) are nothing more than spoken recitations of bicycle parts, cardiovascular data, and mineral supplements, all in roboticized debonair French. My favorite line, delivered in a singsong Dr. Seuss rhythm: "Carbohydrate-Protein, A-B-C-D-Vitamin" (and believe it or not, they even make it rhyme).

Go ahead and laugh. Personally, I've always found the deadpan Teutonic humor of the KRAFTWERK Man-Machine persona irresistible, sounding not unlike a Sesame Street interpretation of Fritz Lang's futuristic silent movie "Metropolis" (which inspired an earlier KRAFTWERK dance hit). A lot of Proggers will likely disagree, but I think it's easy to see the organic warmth below the lacquered veneer of all that sci-fi technology.

The album ends with a re-mix of their original 1983 "Tour de France" single, the liveliest piece of music here and ideally placed as an epilogue, linking the 21st Century KRAFTWERK to their earlier selves. Listening to the song, it's hard to resist jumping on an old 10-speed Schwinn and pedaling around the neighborhood, although it's doubtful anyone could match the pace suggested by the tempo here.

The music of KRAFTWERK has always been an acquired taste, and the latest edition won't appeal to everyone, of course. But to nerds like me who know all the words to "Pocket Calculator" ( pressing down a special key, it plays a little melody..!) it's a minor miracle of sophisticated understatement. I only hope they don't wait another 17 years before recording their next album.

Report this review (#34623)
Posted Tuesday, April 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Finally i can express all my happiness and for this i'm very proud to annonce a great album by Kraftwerk! Tour de France is a perfect battle of pilgrim fathers of electronic scene against all those Chemical Brothers or Moby (pop electronic kings or queens it' the same for me). Ok ,the concept track Tour the France divided in three part it' s the perfect example of an intense career of this group Great melody but also an incredible annextion of modern style! Good Work!!
Report this review (#69518)
Posted Wednesday, February 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This was a surprise find. I was under the impression that Kraftwerk had hung it up. A new album, after so much time, can also be suspect. Can they still deliver the goods? The answer is yes. This may not be as impressive as "Autobahn" or "Trans-Europe Express," but it still has a lot to love. It is an updated sound, but still pure Kraftwerk.

What is so enjoyable about this album is the purity of concept. It takes you through the whole Tour de France experience. I am a bicyclist, so it's even better while I am riding. The rhythms, energy levels, ups, downs, are all there. If you're not into bicycling, the music still does its job.

Kraftwerk is almost always a pleasure, but yet, not everyone's cup of tea. If you are into it, this album will not let you down. In comparison to the classics, it does not come off as an essential item. There are other Kraftwerk albums you should get first. However, this is quite good.

H.T. Riekels

Report this review (#90847)
Posted Thursday, September 21, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Old kraftwerk meets new electronic music, with excellent results.

From listening to Kraftwerk one gets the clear impression that they are a very focussed, dedicated and single minded group of men. And I think this insular nature is part of what led to this fine album. On one hand the core concepts of classic Kraftwerk are on fine display 0 relatively sparse upbeat compositions, minimal and driving drum parts as well as that vocoder. However strange as it may seem these undisputed pioneers of popular electronic music have become influenced by the music they influenced and helped shape and create. Those old Kraftwerk staples mentioned earlier are now mixed with digital wavetable synthesizers, fat club bass tones, automated cutoff sweeps and rich interlocking tapestries of synthesizers.

It's so unexpected and almost unprecedented for a group after 35 odd years to not only still be together, to not only reinvent themselves but to also be creating fantastic music after all this time. The opening epic 3-parter 'Tour de France Etape' is up there with the best material they have ever created it embodies everything good about their old and new sounds and thus is the perfect testament to this band's timelessness. From there the album is solid but not quite as strong. Songs like 'Vitamin' with it's steady 8 minute march and 'Aero Dynamik' with it's dark minimal aesthetic are highlights from the rest.

I will never make the mistake of under-estimating Kraftwerk. Tour de France Soundtracks is such a great, fresh sounding achievement by such long running and ageing band that they are deserving of high praise. Recommended to all serious electronic music fans.

Report this review (#217353)
Posted Friday, May 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars "Tour De France - Soundtracks" is the 10th full-length studio album by German experimental electronic pop/rock act Kraftwerk. The album was released in August 2003. It´s been a 17 year recording break since the release of "Electric Café (1986)" and "Tour De France - Soundtracks" is quite the surprise comeback album by Kraftwerk. Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider are the usual suspects while Fritz Hilpert and Henning Schmitz are the new boys in town.

While the music on the album holds some of Kraftwerk´s trademark elements, like the simple synth themes and processed robotic voices, there are also changes that provides this album with a very different sound compared to other Kraftwerk albums. Most notably the techno beats that are featured on most of the songs. While the quality of the music is high throughout the album, "Tour De France - Soundtracks" is the first Kraftwerk album (from their electronic pop period) where I´m not instantly reminded of the fact that I´m listening to Kraftwerk. I can´t say my knowledge of techno music is very extensive, so I´m not neccessarily the right person to comment on references but "Tour De France - Soundtracks" doesn´t sound very original to my ears. This is the first Kraftwerk album where the group sound like a follower and not a leader. The album is 55:56 minutes long and that´s too long IMO. While the repetitive beats and the soothing and pleasant synth sounds makes the album a laid-back and pleasant listen, the album becomes a bit trivial and longdrawn after about half the playing time.

To my ears "Tour De France - Soundtracks" is the least essential album yet by Kraftwerk and while I personally enjoy this album more than the early krautrock albums by the group, "Tour De France - Soundtracks" just isn´t as groundbreaking or interesting as those early albums. A 2.5 star (50%) rating is warranted.

Report this review (#242256)
Posted Thursday, October 1, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars 2003 was the year I discovered Kraftwerk and I still remember it like it was yesterday. After listening to albums like Autobahn and The Man-Machine I was totally blown away by the news of a new album release by these innovators of the electronic music!

Well it's safe to say that Kraftwerk was back and the music was better than ever! I loved this album the first few times I've listened to it but that effect started to wear off by the end of the first week. There is nothing really wrong with the album, first half is awesome but it gets a bit repetitive and tiresome towards the end.

All in all a great comeback but by 2003 standards this release can't be considered progressive due to the innovations that the genre had undergone during those last couple of years. If anything Tour De France - Soundtracks sounded more like Kraftwerk trying to catch up to the new musical standards which they surely did but without breaking any new ground.

**** star songs: Prologue (0:31) Tour De France Etape 1 (4:28) Tour De France Etape 2 (6:41) Tour De France Etape 3 (3:56) Chrono (3:19) Aero Dynamik (5:05) Titanium (3:21) La Forme (8:41) Regeneration (1:16) Tour De France (5:10)

*** star songs: Vitamin (8:09) Elektro Kardiogramm (5:19)

Report this review (#259299)
Posted Monday, January 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Warning! No Prog here! As if you needed that one. Kraftwerk sure never attracted you for their baffling compositions and intricate harmonies. Stark minimalism and cold electronic sounds are their fare and I wouldn't want to have it any different.

Tour De France is a come-back of sorts after the 17 year gap that separates this album from the slightly weaker Electronic Café. The great thing about this album is that it sounds completely fresh and updated while still 100% Kraftwerk. Never before has Kraftwerk sounded so techno as on this album and I suspect Underworld and Orbital must have been a very important source ofor inspiration. The opening suite of the Tour De France stages and Chrono is simply marvellous. Stark techno beats, flanging pulses of highly processed guitar and synth sounds, washes of synthesized voices and catchy rising notes.

Things can only go down from here and they sort of do. Vitamin is a good track but sounds too old-school Kraftwerk for its own good, while lacking both the memorable melodic lines and catchy vocals that were so essential in their late 70's masterpieces. The techno machine gets going again with Aéro Dynamik/Titanium. The album ends with the 20 year older single Tour De France. It's synth-pop style is very different from the rest of the album but due to the remix upgrade it received it blends in quite well.

Great come-back album. Though I would rather recommend the Min Max live album for combining the best tunes from this album with plenty of Kraftwerk favourites

Report this review (#284294)
Posted Monday, May 31, 2010 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars From cars to trains to bicycles in 30 years

In my opinion, this 2003 album was a return to form for Kraftwerk and their best and most progressive album since Trans-Europe Express from 1977! After their heavy flirtations with Synth Pop with Electric Café in the mid 80's and their Dance music influenced re-makes of older material with The Mix in the early 90's, there was nothing but a long period of silence from the group. Tour De France - Soundtracks was their first proper album in almost 20 years and they once again opted for a concept album in line with Autobahn and Trans- Europe Express from the 70's. Automobiles on the German motorways and trains on the European railways have here been replaced by bicycles on the French roads. To me it seems as if Kraftwerk did their best works when they drew inspiration from some kind of vehicles moving forward in some way, it somehow helps them to get that essential propulsive "drive" in the music and the rhythms lends themselves very well to imagery of different kinds of transportation and forward-moving-ness. It gives the music a natural flow and progression as well as a sense of direction.

The sound of Tour De France - Soundtracks is modern, but it still bears all of the combo's old trademarks. It is conceptual, it is electronic and it has some humor. They are not trying to be something they are not here and this album sits well beside their classic output from the 70's and early 80's. If I'm not mistaken, the title track that closes this album is a new version of a non-album single that was originally released in 1983. It makes you wish they had done this album at the time instead of the weak Electric Café, it would surely have been a much better follow-up to Computer World.

This album is probably best seen as one complete piece of music rather than a collection of individual tracks. This is especially so on the album's first five tracks that forms a kind of suite of continuous propulsive music. Some tracks do however work well as standalones, most notably Vitamin and the title track. All the themes stay within the general concept based around the famous French bicycle race. There are no verses and choruses as such and the lyrics are mostly just single words or lists of words, like Vitamin which is just a list of minerals, vitamins and other chemical substances (presumably something you would have to be very conscious of if you intend to participate in the Tour De France race).

Given the nature of the album, it is not easy to point out specific tracks. The whole thing is rather pleasant and enjoyable, even if I usually don't care much for this kind of music at all. Coming in 2003, this is naturally not in any way groundbreaking like their early albums, but it is a fine album in the distinctive style of the group with contemporary touches.

For me this is one of the better Kraftwerk albums

Report this review (#294484)
Posted Saturday, August 14, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars I'm really surprised that this has such a low score. Actually I shouldn't be, because it's not Prog in any shape or form.

What it is, is perfect electronics for someone like me who does a lot of cycling. Stick this on your headphones and you'll be away like Forrest Gump rampaging through the countryside until you collapse in a wheezing mass of flesh and bone. These are crystal clear electronics that rotate at the speed of a bike wheel. The only downside is that one or two moments get a bit repetitive. But minor details aside, this is a cheery, android- like, upbeat album that can only elate your spirits if you're doing anything physical. Of particular note is the superb 'Aero Dynamik' - probably the best tune on the album.

Big thumbs up for this one, which is I imagine was made to please long term fans.

Report this review (#394096)
Posted Friday, February 4, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
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.

Report this review (#404791)
Posted Monday, February 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Tour De France is one of my favorite Kraftwerk albums. This album retains the dark and sinister sounds of their earlier albums, but has a game-on kind of feel that is unique to Tour De France.

The first three tracks kind of run together as a single piece (Etapes 1, 2 and 3) and are fantastically trance-like and have a great beat to run along with. I'm a runner, so this album is amazing for marathon running. Robotic vocoded vocals have a very strong presence on this album, being included on almost every track. Something that stands out on this album is the choice of notes on this album. Compared to Kraftwerk's earlier electronic works, this album has a very dreamy, airy feel. The textures on this album make the music seem to be either pleasant and lucid-dream-like or dark and uncontrollable nightmare-like. I do feel that "Vitamin" adds an unwelcome touch of goofiness to the album, with lyrics about taking vitamins and whatever; I don't particularly care for it. It's kind of like when you fall asleep and have a great dream, then you momentarily wake up to an infomercial playing on your TV. "Aero Dynamik" and "Titanium" run together as a suite, utilizing some great zapping sounds that drive the tracks with aggressive force. The rest of the tracks also are entertaining, and "La Form" has some very nice development throughout the 8 minute duration. The title track starts off fairly annoying with the heavy breathing, but is actually one of the most lush and colorful tracks on this album, and is really a beautiful way to end the album.

I feel like most people don't really give this album a chance. It really doesn't sound too much different than their best material, which is completely fine with me. There are a few subtle modern touches to the material here, but it doesn't seem forced or annoying. I'd definitely have to recommend this album.

Report this review (#438054)
Posted Saturday, April 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars After a very long break, the band came back with this ''Tour De France''. Partially ''sung'' in French, this album is not featured amongst my top fave to be honest?But this was already the case since ''Computer World''.

The uniform beats and boring moods are too much b y now. I can't get thrilled any longer with this techno / dance oriented music all the way through. Maybe that my twenty one years old son could appreciate this while being on the dance floor, but I can't.

The long suite ''Etapes'' (stages) is just a collection of almost sixteen minutes of dull electronics: uninspired and repetitive to death. ''Kraftwerk'' has always been playing this type of music, but with very much more grandeur and fun from ''Autobahn'' through ''The Man Machine''. What came after was not on par IMHHO.

When I listen to ''Vitamin'' or ''Aero Dynamik'' the boring feeling prevails, really. But the same languish mood goes on infortunately and ''Titanium'' is not what I can consider as a good tune. Being electronic or not.

Most of the songs are linked with the cycling world (''La Forme'', ''Regeneration'') and obviously, the ''Tour De France'' is the biggest event of all. It reminds some great stages/mountain (Tourmalet, Galibier etc.) but these are sporting memories. The music displayed here is flat and mostly uninteresting.

''Kraftwerk'' shouldn't have bothered with this one frankly (nor with some of their previous effort BTW), but here it is: probably the last (?) ''Kraftwerk'' album which is not a crafted work by any means.

This is not a tour de force should I say. Just a bit better than ''Electric Café'' (but this was not difficult, right?). Two stars (but IMO it is on the high range of the rating).

Report this review (#445483)
Posted Tuesday, May 10, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars "Tour de France" is the last studio album released to date by the German electronica band Kraftwerk. The album was released in 2003 accompanied with a lot of anticipation as it was the first time a full studio album had been released for 17 years.

The sound on this album seems a lot more mature and up to date. The sound still has that danceable, yet minimal, electronic sound they are famous for with repetitive, processed vocals. Of course, the album is inspired by the famous annual bike race in France, and it reflects the band members growing interest in bicycling. The band members consist of 2 of the original members that have always been with the band, namely Ralf Hutter and Florian Schneider. The other 2 members joined in 1989 and 1992, Fritz Hilpert and Henning Schmitz, who are still active in the group.

The album starts off and immediately you can detect the maturity in the music. The short "Prologue" give a nice, lush and short introduction and flows into the 3 part suite "Tour de France 2003 Etape 1 ? 3". It is reminiscent of the original "Tour de France" released years earlier. The tracks pretty much have a continuous flow through the 3 parts and a continuous steady beat. There are computerized sounding vocals that continue through the 3 parts, but it is mostly instrumental as that is the focus of this album. The music definitely has that electronic and computerized sound, but it is still quite interesting as it continues. "Chrono" actually continues with the same vibe and seems to be connected to the suite as a whole. It is a bit more experimental here as the themes are more varied, but it does return to the main theme by the end.

"Vitamin" is the first track to be not connected from what came previously. This one has a more solid beat and is not as airy, but actually approaches an industrial sound with some metallic effects. Again there are sparse robotic lyrics that are not a spotlight as much as they are a support to the music.

"Aero Dynamik" follows this track and was released as a single in 2004. This is fast paced track with nice upbeat feel. It has a repetitive pattern on top of which are spoken and processed vocals and other synth layers in an almost rave style track. "Titanium" continues on with the main idea from the previous track, but changing patterns up a bit, which is almost the only indication that it is a new track, but it later returns to the same theme.

"Elektro Kardiogramm" starts off with the sound of a heart beat and builds melodic, vocalized, and instrumental foundations off of that with the lyrics being "Minimum/Maximum beats per minute". The result is a solid mid-tempo beat sounded by the electronic melody lines.

"La Forme" starts off with an atmospheric and airy feel. One of the most realized melody lines on the album then starts and later spoken processed vocals start and takes turns with the melody line. This is one of the better tracks on the album as it is more melodic and all of the elements work together to build the song. It doesn't rely so much on a repetitive pattern as the previous track on the album, but creates variations and other thematic elements to make it a little bit more complex. "Regeneration" sits as a mid-track that takes off of the previous track as a cool down section to bridge it to a final version of "Tour de France". This time, it starts off with a repetitive breath effect and is joined by several percussive effects that establish an up-beat rhythm. Soon, a lusher, yet danceable, version of the main theme to the title track returns.

Overall, this album does what was expected from the band, and then adds to the sound by making it more mature, but also making the sound more up to date. The band really didn't need to prove anything except that they still could do what they've always been able to do, and that is make interesting Krautrock inspired electronic music. They didn't try to sound like anyone else, they just continued developing the sound that influenced so many other artists that grew up on their sound. The album is still fun to listen to, even though it lacks the funky elements of yesterday, it proves that this band easily still fits in the style it helped invent.

Report this review (#2120016)
Posted Monday, January 21, 2019 | Review Permalink

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