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Kraftwerk - Electric Café (AKA

ELECTRIC CAFÉ (AKA "TECHNO POP")

Kraftwerk

Progressive Electronic


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Syzygy
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Honorary Collaborator
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.

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Send comments to Syzygy (BETA) | Report this review (#49746)
Posted Sunday, October 02, 2005 | Review Permalink
UMUR
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Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Electric Café" is the 9th full-length studio album by German experimental electronic pop/rock act Kraftwerk. The album was released through EMI/Warner Bros. in December 1986. The band re-released the album in October 2009 under its original working title, "Techno Pop". Kraftwerk had already began work on the album in 1982 but various issues and problems post-poned it´s release until 1986.

Five years have passed since the release of their last album "Computer World (Computerwelt) (1981)". Like that album "Electric Café" is unmistakably an album made in the eighties. The synth sounds, the drum programming and the sound production all points in that direction. "Electric Café" features 6 tracks and has a total playing time of 35:38. A relatively short album by today´s standards.

The first three tracks on the album work as a kind of suite with reoccuring themes while the three last tracks are seperate individual tracks. The music style is simple and repetitive electronic pop/ rock. Electronic beats, simple synth themes and processed robotic vocals. By this time in Kraftwerk´s career that´s no surprise. The music is generally a bit darker and harder edged than on "Computer World (Computerwelt)", but the sounds used on the album are still very recognisable as being from the eighties. All tracks are memorable and of high quality.

"Electric Café" appeals slightly more to me than "Computer World (Computerwelt)" did, but it doesn´t reach the heights of neither "Trans-Europe Express (Trans-Europa Express) (1977)" nor "The Man-Machine (Die Mensch-Maschine) (1978)", both of which I still see as the most essential albums in Kraftwerk´s discography. "Electric Café" is a pretty good album by Kraftwerk though and deserves a 3 star (60%) rating. Kraftwerk would take a longer (17 year) recording break after the release of "Electric Café" but would return with a new lineup and a new album in 2003 called "Tour De France - Soundtracks".

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#242238)
Posted Thursday, October 01, 2009 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
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Prog Metal Team
2 stars Boing Boom Tschak. The Telephone Call. Did Kraftwerk now try to emulate the bands that copied them just a few years earlier? What were they thinking?

My main issue with the album is that it doesn't have the quality of their earlier work, nor the power and vigour of their followers. Boing Boom Tschak and Techno Pop have beats that come straight out of earlier Coil or Front 242 albums, while other tracks like Telephone Call and Sex Object come off as poor attempts to sound like Depeche Mode or New Order. All those bands had long since overcome their initial Kraftwork influences and had moved on beyond what Kraftwerk delivers here. A bit painful.

It's an album that is still good enough not to be ashamed off, but it was high time to call it quits and leave the rapidly evolving scene that they started to the new talent.

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Send comments to Bonnek (BETA) | Report this review (#251747)
Posted Thursday, November 19, 2009 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
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Symphonic Team
3 stars Boing Boom Tschak B-B-Boing Boom Tschak-Tschak Boing Boom Tschak!

Kraftwerk followed up their masterful 'Computer World' with 'Electric Cafe' and what a change of pace this is. It is more mainstream than anything previous and works as a kind of techno disco electro pop rather than the computerised innovation of previous albums.

Like many Kraftwerk albums the success rides on single success and this album produced many that did make it to the charts in one form or another. Namely we have the quirky infectious 'Boing Boom Tschak' with that weird electronic 'Tron' like face in the film clip.

'Musique Non Stop' is an electro trance hit with female vocals from out of nowhere echoed with a dominating bass voice. It is pure and simple electro pop that would have them dancing in discos worldwide.

'Telephone call' was another hit with a strange robotic clip and it kind of was more accessible.

'Sex Object' was a throwaway as was 'Techno Pop' but the last track was another solid track, 'Electric Cafe'.

So we have six original tracks with very pronounced rhythms and computerised vocalisations, but this is not the Kraftwerk I grew up with. They changed their style and became mainstream disco-tech. Not a bad album but nowhere near to the standard of TMM or CW.

3 stars for sheer radio friendly prog.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#276786)
Posted Wednesday, April 07, 2010 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
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Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Fluent in four languages

It took Kraftwerk some five years after the release of "Computer world" in 1981, for the follow up album to be finalised. Work on "Electric Café" actually started within a year of "Computer world" but various issues, not least of which a feeling within the band that they were not at their creative best in the intervening years, meant that fans had to wait for much longer than they had anticipated. Reports suggest that EMI was planning to release an album called "Techno pop" around 1984/5, containing earlier versions of pretty much all that ended up on this album. In the end though, only a single "Tour de France" appeared, and that track was then omitted from the final release.

During the period co-founder Ralf Hütter was injured in an accident, exacerbating the situation. It is perhaps also telling that after this album was completed, Wolfgang Flür and Karl Bartos would leave the band before any further studio work was recorded. One of the working titles for the album was "Techno pop", and this name was used as the actual title when it was re-released in 2009 with a bonus track.

When "Electric cafe" did finally appear, Kraftwerk once again offered versions in German and English. In Spain, a third version also appeared with a couple of tracks re-worked in Spanish. In a further effort to appeal to as much of Europe as possible, the title track is sung in French! Given the generally perfunctory nature of the vocals on a Kraftwerk album, it is questionable whether so many different language versions were actually necessary.

Turning to the music, the album can been taken in two distinct halves, neatly split by the two sides of the LP. Side one is a three part suite with recurring themes and chants (there is no singing as such). The opening "Boing Boom Tschak" is an over repetitive chant of the track's title, with little discernible melody. It leads straight into "Techno pop", a minimalist trance number with electronic rhythms supporting a simple synth theme. Tellingly, "Musique Non-Stop" was very successful as a dance single, but achieved nothing in the general music charts. The early drum'n'bass style sounds more than a little irritating to these ears.

Side two is made up of three distinct tracks. "The Telephone Call" ("Der Telefon-Anruf") introduces the first singing on the album (a very rare lead by Karl Bartos). The track was replaced on the 2009 re-release with a single version, the space released by this shorter version being filled by a remix called "House phone". The single version is by far the most melodic number on the album, but the melody does not have the strength of previous singles. The remix "House phone" takes the main theme and mutates it into a standard dance mix. This is however preferable to the meandering sound effects of the latter pert of the original track.

"Sex object" has a slightly symphonic feel to the synths, but the monotone vocals are pure Kraftwerk. The album closes with the title track for the original release, a piece which re- uses themes from elsewhere on the album as the basis for slightly more complex vocal arrangements.

In all, not Kraftwerk's finest hour by any means. The band's intention here is clearly to regain the eye of the public through the singles chart, and more specifically the dance charts. The old tenets which formed the basis for the band's best years are still in evidence but they are ruthlessly stifled by commercial ambitions.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#293482)
Posted Thursday, August 05, 2010 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
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Symphonic Team
1 stars Techno Pop, indeed!

It took Kraftwerk five years to come up with a follow up to the successful Computer World which was the longest gap between albums in the group's career up to that point. The result makes it clear that they were running out of inspiration. Even though I have a somewhat soft spot for Computer World (partly due to nostalgia, I suppose), I would definitely claim that the group peaked with Trans-Europe Express in 1977 and that the signs of their downfall were already evident on 1978's Man Machine which spawned the poppy hit single The Model. For the present album they seem to have taken the worst ingredients of the previous two albums and created something out of that. Sex Object was a very obvious attempt to make another The Model which makes for a rather bleak copy of a song that didn't hold much interest in the first place.

The first three tracks on Electric Café would not have been too out of place on Computer World apart from the fact that they wouldn't have fitted very well into that album's concept. These three tracks are also among the best tracks here. They bear the distinct mark of Kraftwerk which means mechanical rhythms with a cold and sterile sound. However, with the exception of the short Boing Boom Tschak, they seem to be dragged out for longer than necessary without much substance to carry them along. Techno Pop was originally intended as the title of the album and that would indeed have been an excellent title for this music. Musique Non Stop would go on to become a Kraftwerk favourite, but it is hardly among their best ever material.

On The Telephone Call, Kraftwerk seem to be heavily influenced by the Synth Pop scene they helped create. The catchy melody and shallow lyrics wouldn't be out of place in the early Depeche Mode repertoire. The annoying samples of telephone noises, however, would probably be. This simple but short Synth Pop song is then continued in instrumental form on House Phone for another five minutes which to me seems entirely unnecessary with its incessant encouragements to "dial again". This is them followed by the aforementioned Sex Object.

While all previous albums from Autobahn to Computer World were at least loosely conceptual in nature, Electric Café does not seem to have a concept. Sex objects, telephone calls and techno Pop is not much of a concept! For me, the conceptual nature of earlier albums was a large part of what made them interesting. The present album feels lame in comparison and whatever they do well here, they had done much better elsewhere already. The title track closes the album on a decent note, but this song adds nothing of value to the band's overall oeuvre.

While this album runs for only 35 minutes, it feels like hours and the musical ideas present here would really only have been enough for maximum ten minutes of music. I should perhaps add that electronic music is not really my cup of tea, but I do have a respect for Kraftwerk and they have made several albums that I enjoy. Electric Café is not one of them though. The progressive aspects of Autobahn and Trans-Europe Express were all in the past at this stage.

A weak effort by a seemingly tired electronic combo

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Send comments to SouthSideoftheSky (BETA) | Report this review (#294407)
Posted Friday, August 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
colorofmoney91
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars Electric Cafe (or Techno Pop) has been an album that I've been putting off for a while, in fear that I would find it to be terrible. As it turns out, I wasn't wrong - this album is bad. I was hoping for maybe an only slightly-lesser version of Tour de France, but this is completely unenjoyable and cold disco pop electronica that manages to pack in every element about '80s electronic music that I absolutely hate. Perhaps this album could've benefited from less vocal activity. Any interesting electronic elements that Kraftwerk had utilized in the past are now entirely absent. Electric Cafe is just a fluke, though. A terrible mis-step after the great Computerwelt.

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Send comments to colorofmoney91 (BETA) | Report this review (#442296)
Posted Tuesday, May 03, 2011 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars As far as I'm concerned, this is a very painful record. I was charmed with (only) of few of their prior albums or at least with some great songs from these.

This record really doesn't hold any of the good old music that the band was able to release in the seventies. This is nothing than just poor synth music with no feeling. The sense of humour of the early days has been forgotten and it is really a challenge to go through all these tunes.

The only good point is the shortness of such an album. At least we aren't confronted with a seventy minutes long album. Of course, at the time of release, such length were not available, unless you would release a double album. This was of course not an option for the band when we listen to the poor level of music recorded here.

It might have got to appeal those who could stand the club floor music of these days, but such hasn't been my taste. I can't find any one track of interest here. Just skip this album. This is my only advice.

Hay que olvidar esta pendejada lo más pronto possible. As the band was willing to use some Spanish ''lyrics'' in this "musical" experience?

One star: this is the max I can get here?De veras, lo máximo para esta ''obra''.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#445482)
Posted Tuesday, May 10, 2011 | Review Permalink

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