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KRAFTWERK

Progressive Electronic • Germany


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Kraftwerk biography
Remaining one of the most influential bands in the history of popular music, we mustn't forget that KRAFTWERK typical sound is the result of many years and decades of experimentations, continuous works and researches in the possibilities offered by the acoustic, electronic and rock instruments.

In 1968, the two original members (Florian Schneider and Ralf Hutter, two longstanding friends) formed ORGANISATION. The famous German producer Conny Plank helped them to record their first album "Tone Float". Historically this album figures among the first albums released in the Krautrock genre, next to recordings from CAN, AMON DUUL, TANGERINE DREAM. The tone is floating but above all largely dominated by long, free improvisations, mixing organs, electronic experimentations with acoustic percussions.

During the year 1970, R. Hutter and F. Schneider dissolved the band to form KRAFTWERK whose name means power station (in German). Klaus Dinger and Andreas Hokman join the band and record an album called "Kraftwerk". Very minimalist, the record's cover is a perfect illustration of a repetitive music made of sound manipulations, punctuated by the flute and the electronic organ parts. The atmosphere is slightly "garage", a bit noisy, sometimes ethereal and spacey (Megahertz). At this time, the band's reputation remains discreet, despite a certain success. One year later in 1971, Klaus Dinger leaves the band to form NEU! with Michael Rother. "Kraftwerk 2" is released the same year and pursues on the way defined by the previous album (a lot of experimental guitar parts, distorted sounds, repetitive rhythms, gradual process.).

In 1973, Florian Schneider decides to put the stress on electronic percussions and contemporary sound researches. "Ralf & Florian" marks a turning point in the band's career. The melodies and the sound used begins more and more pop orientated despite that the recordings strive to bring to the fore the talent of Schneider and Hutter as musicians. In 1974, a new start announces the creation of the "Kling Klang" studio; a small laboratory entirely devoted to advanced electronic researches and investments in new synthesisers. In the album "Autobahn" the Mini Moog and others synthesisers supplant definitely the improvisations and the aleatoric experimentations.

With captivated and very efficient melodies this album is the first of a long commercial success for the band. The band's members settle down, Wolgang Flur, Karl Bart...
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Computer WorldComputer World
Import
Elektra 2006
Audio CD$4.69
$3.99 (used)
AutobahnAutobahn
Import
101 DISTRIBUTION 2009
Audio CD$10.66
$10.50 (used)
Man MachineMan Machine
PARLOPHONE USA 2009
Vinyl$18.99
$27.14 (used)
Tour De France SoundtracksTour De France Soundtracks
Astralwerks 2003
Audio CD$39.99
$3.98 (used)
Radio-ActivityRadio-Activity
Remastered · Import
Emd Int'l 1995
Audio CD$25.17
$2.66 (used)
Trans-Europe ExpressTrans-Europe Express
Capitol 1995
Audio CD$34.61
$3.19 (used)
Minimum MaximumMinimum Maximum
Astralwerks / EMI 2005
Audio CD$19.99
$11.02 (used)
Kraftwerk: Autobahn (Booklet, 180g) Vinyl LPKraftwerk: Autobahn (Booklet, 180g) Vinyl LP
Deluxe Edition
Kling Klang
Vinyl$28.95
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KRAFTWERK shows & tickets


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KRAFTWERK discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

KRAFTWERK top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.26 | 64 ratings
Tone Float (Organisation)
1969
3.35 | 114 ratings
Kraftwerk
1970
3.19 | 84 ratings
Kraftwerk 2
1971
3.45 | 78 ratings
Ralf & Florian
1973
3.46 | 238 ratings
Autobahn
1974
3.12 | 140 ratings
Radio-Activity (Radio-Aktivität)
1975
3.93 | 247 ratings
Trans-Europe Express (Trans-Europa Express)
1977
3.92 | 281 ratings
The Man-Machine (Die Mensch-Maschine)
1978
3.80 | 173 ratings
Computer World (Computerwelt)
1981
2.30 | 80 ratings
Electric Café (AKA "Techno Pop")
1986
2.78 | 55 ratings
The Mix
1991
3.29 | 76 ratings
Tour de France Soundtracks
2003

KRAFTWERK Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.90 | 15 ratings
Concert Classics
1998
3.30 | 42 ratings
Minimum Maximum
2005

KRAFTWERK Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

3.89 | 25 ratings
Minimum Maximum
2005
4.10 | 10 ratings
Kraftwerk And The Electronic Revolution
2008

KRAFTWERK Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.17 | 9 ratings
Kraftwerk (1 and 2)
1972
0.00 | 0 ratings
Kraftwerk 2
1975
1.39 | 10 ratings
Exceller 8
1975
3.00 | 6 ratings
Doppelalbum
1976
0.00 | 0 ratings
Kometenmelodie 2 (Compilation)
1976
3.67 | 3 ratings
Pop Lions - Autobahn
1976
0.00 | 0 ratings
Kraftwerk 1
1977
3.33 | 3 ratings
Highrail
1979
4.00 | 3 ratings
The Capitol Years: Three Originals
1994
3.50 | 2 ratings
The Model
1994
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Best Of Kraftwerk
1995
0.00 | 0 ratings
Kraftwerk (Box Set)
1997
4.84 | 10 ratings
The Catalogue
2009

KRAFTWERK Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Ruckzack
1970
3.71 | 6 ratings
Kohoutek - Kometenmelodie
1973
4.20 | 5 ratings
Kometenmelodie 2
1974
0.00 | 0 ratings
Mitternacht / Morgenspaziergang
1974
3.00 | 1 ratings
Trans Europa Express
1977
4.00 | 1 ratings
Showroom Dummies
1977
3.00 | 1 ratings
Les Mannequins
1977
4.00 | 1 ratings
Das Model
1978
0.00 | 0 ratings
Die Roboter
1978
4.15 | 8 ratings
Neon Lights
1978
0.00 | 0 ratings
Computerwelt
1981
0.00 | 0 ratings
Numbers
1981
0.00 | 0 ratings
Taschenrechner
1981
0.00 | 0 ratings
Computer Love
1981
4.13 | 15 ratings
Tour De France
1983
4.00 | 1 ratings
Musique Non Stop
1986
0.00 | 0 ratings
Der Telefon Anruf
1987
4.13 | 8 ratings
Die Roboter
1991
0.00 | 0 ratings
Robotnik
1991
0.00 | 0 ratings
Showroom Dummies (1992 Single)
1992
0.00 | 0 ratings
Homecomputer
1997
1.56 | 7 ratings
Expo 2000
1999
4.17 | 6 ratings
Expo 2000 (Remix)
2000
3.57 | 7 ratings
Expo Remix
2001
3.71 | 7 ratings
Tour De France 2003
2003
3.00 | 1 ratings
Elektro Kardiogramm
2003
2.35 | 7 ratings
Aerodynamik
2007

KRAFTWERK Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Autobahn by KRAFTWERK album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.46 | 238 ratings

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Autobahn
Kraftwerk Progressive Electronic

Review by RaelWV

4 stars It was inevitable when I started diving into electronic music a few years ago that I'd eventually wind my way to Kraftwerk. To lots of people the German pioneers are electronic music, at least of the accessible pop-flavored variety. No album is more responsible for that than Autobahn. It was, rather inexplicably, a hit in the United States and in Europe.

Autobahn is technically not the first Kraftwerk album, but it might as well be. In fact, main men Florian Schneider and Ralf Hütter have essentially disowned the three albums that came before (they've never been released on CD, IIRC). From what little I've heard of those albums, there is some recognizable Kraftwerking going on, but they had not yet fully embraced electronics they way they did on Autobahn (and later, of course).

There's also a conceptual rigor that starts to be flexed on Autobahn that would really bear fruit on the next several albums, at least when it comes to what was (back in the olde days) side one. The title track, an epic of proggy proportions, sprawls out across that side, conveying musically a car trip across Germany. Lyrics are sparse and in German, although the refrain of "fahren fahren fahren auf der Autobahn" has the effect of sounding like a Beach Boys reference (not intentional, from what I understand). The music is undeniably electronic, although Schneider's flute still makes a couple of appearances.

The concept doesn't hold over to side two, which appears to be kind of neglected by listeners as a result. Regardless, it contains the track that convinced me to keep digging in the Kraftwerk katalog. "Kometenmelodie" is another epic, split into two parts. The first part sounds like something I might come up with on a particularly inspired evening, which is maybe why I like it so much.

Autobahn isn't my favorite Kraftwerk album from stem to stern. But it was the onramp, so to speak, for my discovery of the band. Apparently, it was the same for lots of other folks, too.

On a related note, if you're interested in Kraftwerk and the German experimental music scene from which they sprang, I highly recommend the documentary Kraftwerk and the Electronic Revolution. It's long (3 hours!), but it covers a lot of ground and provides some interesting insight into the whole milieu that was German music in the late 1960s/early 1970s. The film's biggest flaw is that neither Schneider nor Hutter participated, although Karl Bartos (who joined just after Autobahn) provides some interesting insight.

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 Autobahn by KRAFTWERK album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.46 | 238 ratings

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Autobahn
Kraftwerk Progressive Electronic

Review by TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer

1 stars If what you want is a mishmash of the synth and sonic innovations accomplished a couple of years earlier by Pink Floyd, ELP, Amon Duul II, Roger Powell and Hawkwind delivered with the dead-behind-the-eyes glaze of an accountant or economist, this is the album for you. Most of the good parts feel like quotations of On The Run or Echoes or bits of Gong's Angel's Egg.

The titular pop-synth epic has the ambience of a terrible crash between two lorries full of skittles. The first part of Cometenmelodie just has nothing happening and the lack of a bottom end really leaves you feeling ungrounded for the glaring synths. I'm not going to spend fifty words review savaging the lackluster electronic drums or the floppy novelty vocals that no doubt gave it its hit status. I hate them. That is my whole opinion on the matter. In terms of the composition I can't hear much going on. Call it 'minimalist' if you like but I just can't hear anything I don't feel like I've heard before. The sonic effects on Mitternacht you can hear done with far more panache in Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast or Echoes and the brief padded chords are as bog standard as you get, leading to a conclusion where nothing happens, which seems to be the motif of this review.

The much lauded sonic innovations here were done earlier and better by artists working in a panoply of genres and there were tempered by ambition and ideas. The only redeeming piece is the closing Morganspazierung which reminds me of the psychedelic music that used to get attached to British children's TV in better days. Even that is kind of spared for its lack of ideas on account of a very short running length.

Rating: 2/15. Go to the source where the water's fresher. Favourite Track: Morganspazierung

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 Computer World (Computerwelt) by KRAFTWERK album cover Studio Album, 1981
3.80 | 173 ratings

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Computer World (Computerwelt)
Kraftwerk Progressive Electronic

Review by HolyMoly
Forum & Site Admin Group Forum & Site Admin

4 stars Several weeks ago, I had an epiphany of sorts with respect to this album, and that is the inspiration for this review.

First, a little background: I remember becoming aware of this album way back in 1981 - the pop radio station where I lived played the track "Numbers" several times, probably for its novelty value: a song that counted a bunch of numbers in a robotic voice set to a sequenced synthetic melody eerily similar to that heard the prior year on Paul McCartney's synth fiasco "Temporary Secretary" (which I loved). But the seed was planted. The next time I went to a record store, I saw Kraftwerk's album "Computer World" and almost decided to buy it. Eventually, I did buy it.

Back then, I was in junior high school. Computers were new, a little bit alien, and kind of fascinating. Kraftwerk latched on to our collective curiosity about a world with computers. Today their involvement in our life seems obvious, even inevitable, but back then it was a big question mark. Isaac Asimov and Alan Parsons were wondering if the man/machine relationship would really yield the utopian life the optimists anticipated. I myself composed an admittedly naive but nonetheless sincere collage piece where I questioned the wisdom of letting computers take too much time out of our lives. Kraftwerk, meanwhile, seemed to tell us, hey, don't worry, be happy.

That is the vibe I get from Computer World. It presents man and machine working together in harmony, with the most relaxed and playful melodies you'd ever expect coming out of what sounds like a vintage 1980s Nintendo system.

My epiphany came when I was driving with my family in the car. We'd had a fun day, and we went out after dinner to get some frozen yogurt. I was driving, my wife was on her iPhone, my daughter was in the back seat on her Kindle, and Kraftwerk was on the stereo. As the music played, I heard the blips and beeps from my family's electronic devices, and rather than feel the Techno-Fear that so many of my contemporaries feel upon realizing that their families are spending way too much time staring at computer screens, I felt an odd sort of Harmony going on. The music on the stereo and the incidental sounds coming out of their devices were almost "jamming" with each other! Our lives and the machinery that kept us entertained blipped and beeped in the same kind of rhythmic harmony as the music I was hearing. It all seemed to fit together, and it reinforced an idea I've held for a while: Technology is not our enemy. Technology is as beautiful as a painting - or a piece of music. It's all part of the same wellspring of human ideas.

Ok, Ok, not very politically correct but I'm just relating what I felt. This album really just reinforced some ideas I had first encountered in my favorite tome Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig, that the relationship between man and machine need not be any different from the relationship between man and "nature", because "nature" also encompasses "machines". It's all just different manifestations of the same "stuff". And I will always remember this, and will always associate that discovery with this album.

In a historical context, Kraftwerk, who had pretty much invented synth-pop during the preceding 5 years, presented this album almost as a "hey, remember us?" kind of gesture. The music they had pioneered had influenced bands that were all over the radio by then. Although this album really broke no new ground like Trans Europe Express had, it gave the Kraftwerk guys a well-deserved opportunity to do a "victory lap". It's ironic in this light that I first perceived them as a novelty band in 1981 - they were probably the pioneers of half the styles I was hearing on the radio from my favorite pop stars at the time.

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 The Man-Machine (Die Mensch-Maschine) by KRAFTWERK album cover Studio Album, 1978
3.92 | 281 ratings

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The Man-Machine (Die Mensch-Maschine)
Kraftwerk Progressive Electronic

Review by Dobermensch

4 stars As soon as I see the iconic sleeve, my mind relays the past 28 years since first hearing 'Die Mensch Maschine'. So many faded memories... but as far as the recording goes, it's razor sharp in my mind. Every note, lyric and fragmentary silence between sounds are permanently etched in my brain.

From the striking red, white and black colours displayed on the cover - used elsewhere in German history to great effect - to the purely functional, without fuss approach, I'll always be a huge fan of this album. While American artists like Springsteen were chest beating and crotch thrusting, Kraftwerk displayed a purely synthetic, non human, non sexual mechanical approach which went on to influence more bands than I've had hot dinners. From post punk, new romantics (with their white faces and red lipstick), to techno and hip-hop. Whew! that's one hell of a legacy they hold.

'Robots' is as far away from their origins as you could imagine. Flutes and drums are now the arch enemy, to be eschewed at all costs. The Vocoder vocals over this entirely electronic track sets the scene. Plinky-plonky keyboards rigidly patter out the melody of this Tuetonic pop tune as Ralf Hütter's sexless vocals recites the the hilarious lyrics (in my mind only) 'We're filthy Roboters'. Springy, bouncing synths and playful percussion only add to my amusement.

You'll pretty much get from the above as to what follows - and it does. There are some straight vocals but they still sound like a more tuneful 'HAL' from '2001- Space Odyssey' during it's malfunction phase. The best is left till last with the title track - with its primitive sequencer sound and highly manipulated vocals saturated beneath a pulsing clockwork bass throb. Fragments of which you'll hear in such bands such as New Order, Ultravox, OMD, John Foxx, Skinny Puppy, Front Line Assembly, Aphex Twin, Autechre... the list goes on and on...

Sensibly they put a lid on things during 1981, after Computer World, realising that there really wasn't that much more they could contribute that was ground-breaking or cutting edge. What we're left with is some of the best electronic albums ever put to vinyl - which sounds twice as good on CD format.

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 Trans-Europe Express (Trans-Europa Express) by KRAFTWERK album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.93 | 247 ratings

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Trans-Europe Express (Trans-Europa Express)
Kraftwerk Progressive Electronic

Review by aglasshouse

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.

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 Tone Float (Organisation) by KRAFTWERK album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.26 | 64 ratings

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Tone Float (Organisation)
Kraftwerk Progressive Electronic

Review by aglasshouse

1 stars I really had not expected an entrance like this from the electronic band Kraftwerk. In fact, this album is the very last thing I'd think they'd come out with.

This little krautrock gem is a five track release that was recorded by Organisation (pre-Kraftwerk) back in 1969. Mind you, this was before they became Kraftwerk with their 1970 eponymous release. I'd hate to bash on a genre so innocent as krautrock, because I happen to enjoy a number of bands that apply to it, especially Can. But it is obvious after listening why Organisation couldn't stay the way they were.

Wow, these guys tried WAAY too hard to be as experimental as they could possibly be. And when I say that, I mean that they made their music sound excruciating in the name of art. I honestly don't know how people can seem to enjoy this. Sure, I guess you could say that it was 'influencial', but I haven't exactly seen any band that says: "Oh, well we were inspired by the band Organisation. Me and my friends would listen to them all the time while we were kids. Their 1969 album Tone Float really inspired us to make our own sound." If you've heard that from a person, please let me know, because I sure haven't.

I really hate the fact that I have to hate this album. I mean, these guys sure did try and all on this, and it's true that it doesn't sound anything like Kraftwerk, but oh my god. I couldn't even make it through any of the songs during this review. The album has the twenty minute long title track, a compilation of echoes and rhythms, with a third quarter that actually sounds nice. Other than that, this album is completely worthless. 'Milk Rock' could have managed to be a standable track, but instead we get some guitar doodling and incoherent keyboard, all the while a stabbing synth rhythm buries itself in your brain. 'Silver Forest' is worthless, floaty fanfare with unnecessary cymbal crashes and glittery synthesizer. 'Rhythm Salad' is probably one of the most annoying songs I've ever heard, with a ton of people randomly jamming on what seem to be bongos, castanets, and maracas to make something to use as an excuse for art. The finale epic, 'Noitasinagro', is a strange yet painfully boring song with very little context or overall need.

So if you are seeking some good old classic krautrock, here you go. This would be perfect for you, but be warned; if you are searching for krautrock like Can or Neu!, then you are sadly mistaken.

I do not recommend this album.

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 Autobahn by KRAFTWERK album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.46 | 238 ratings

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Autobahn
Kraftwerk Progressive Electronic

Review by MonsterMagnet

2 stars Autobahn, innovative album precursor of electro pop. It came of course from Germany, as the country had opened rock's gates to electronic influences.The titles are built around the concept of a trip on the highway. Autobahn is the long part of the trip when the road is full; then it's Kometenmelodie, the nightfall (composed of a contemplative first part and of a more festive and joyful second one); followed by the stranger Mitternacht; next it's Morgenspaziergang describing the sunrise with birdsongs imitated by synths which is added a little flute melody reminiscent of Grieg's Morning Mood. Autobahn may be appreciated for its sweet naivety but it sounds pretty easy to me, even boring sometimes. In fact I would say it has a lack of creativity, of inventiveness. However it's true that this music feels comfortable, so you could ask me why it doesn't please me. On a certain point of view you're right, but for musical expectations Autobahn is rather poor. If this album was part of a property catalog, I'd give it more stars because it fills well and decorates nicely an atmosphere. Good to relax, maybe, not to listen to.

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 Radio-Activity (Radio-Aktivität) by KRAFTWERK album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.12 | 140 ratings

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Radio-Activity (Radio-Aktivität)
Kraftwerk Progressive Electronic

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Realising they had hit on an intriguing new direction on Autobahn, Kraftwerk doubled down on the followup album Radio-Activity by relying still further on electronic instruments. This time, they experimented with the potential of crafting wholly electronic works which functioned as satisfying pop numbers as well as exercises in testing the limits of electronics. Of course, once the late-1970s/early 1980s synthpop wave hit this would all sound rather obvious, but it would be wrong to downplay the importance of this album in laying the groundwork for an entire new genre of music. At points it does feel like rough sketches towards more confident subsequent releases like Trans-Europe Express or The Man-Machine, but it's still an important release in its own right.

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 Radio-Activity (Radio-Aktivität) by KRAFTWERK album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.12 | 140 ratings

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Radio-Activity (Radio-Aktivität)
Kraftwerk Progressive Electronic

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

5 stars I seem to be going out on a limb here with my five stars for Kraftwerk's undervalued 1975 album. As of this writing, ten out of fourteen ProgArchive collaborators (a convincing 71%) all agree on its 'good, but non-essential' status, and not without reason. The general consensus is that the album was patched together under pressure to recreate another 'Autobahn', a conclusion I don't buy. Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider always enjoyed total creative control over their music, and have never failed to know exactly what they were doing. So why should this album have been any different?

I can't say I'm surprised by the prevailing low opinion of it. But when revisiting the album after several decades what I hear is the first, full realization of the classic Kraftwerk ethos. At a time when rock music (and Progressive Rock in particular) was approaching its nadir of decadence, Ralf and Florian simplified their budding commercial impulses and fashioned a unique retro-futuristic self-image, combining elegant suits and poses with antique radio equipment and state-of-the-art musical technology.

For a German band it was a brilliant aesthetic concept, leapfrogging European history from the 1930s to the 1970s as if National Socialism had never happened. A happy side-effect to the new style was that it rendered the music all but timeless, even today, and despite the dated bleeps and buzzes of all those analog synthesizers, because the image of the group itself was already backdated forty years.

From a musical standpoint it's true the album is a bit thin. Of the dozen indexed tracks maybe a third are genuine songs; the balance is effects, transitions, and cyber-social experiments. The resulting collection can seem uneven (and I'm sympathetic to that criticism), but it can also be heard as an evening's old-style radio broadcast, complete with news, intermission, and frustrating on-air equipment tests. The non-musical digressions are more frequent on the second half of the CD (Side Two of the original vinyl). But in the context of their larger career the discomforting sine-waves and primitive vocoders heard in 'Radio Stars' (which I find perversely soothing, in a comic sort of way) marked an affectionate farewell to the long-haired laboratory research of Ralf and Florian's Krautrock infancy.

The album was also hugely influential, almost singlehandedly spawning an entire generation of synth-pop imitators, especially in England. 'Autobahn', by comparison, was only a fluke: a flash-in-the-pan novelty song from a pair of reluctant rockers still clinging to their guitars and flutes. Here their true musical identity suddenly emerged whole and complete, a preview to the even more streamlined packages of 'Trans-Europe Express' and 'The Man Machine'.

All this is of course subjective. But it's important to remember that 'essential' doesn't necessarily mean 'perfect' (it might not even equate with 'good'). 'Radio-Activity' is hardly the most perfect Kraftwerk album - that would arguably be either of their subsequent two releases - but there's a lot more here than just unfulfilled potential and atonal filler. It was a glimpse of the future as it might have been imagined in 1935, performed (with deadpan irony) in the present-day of 1975, and sounding no less weirdly anachronistic as I write this in 2013.

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 Autobahn by KRAFTWERK album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.46 | 238 ratings

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Autobahn
Kraftwerk Progressive Electronic

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Contrary to what the band itself would have you believe, "Autobahn" wasn't Kraftwerk's debut album. Ralf and Florian have officially denied the existence of anything recorded prior to their 1974 breakaway hit, but despite its reputation as a pioneering slice of embryonic electronica the record was actually the last of their formative efforts, sharing more common ground with the band's Krautrock roots than with the robotic archetypes of later albums.

In retrospect the 22-minute title song was an obvious preview of coming attractions. But at the time the band was still more Man than Machine, with flutes and guitars very much in evidence, notably on Side Two of the original LP, divided into four shorter instrumental tracks. "Kometenmelodie" presented a more symphonic refinement of their earlier techno-pop single (dropping any reference to the cosmic dud of Comet Kohoutek); "Mitternacht" was a darker, ambient refugee from the band's experimental adolescence; and the gentle flute of "Morgenspaziergang", complete with tacky electronic birdsong, quietly reprised the "Autobahn" melody in a nice bit of understated (acoustic) closure.

Nothing too revolutionary, which may be why the latter half of the LP is often dismissed as filler. But in career terms the album has to be considered a landmark recording, breaking new ground (for both the band and for musical posterity) by embracing the brave new world of synthesizers in a pop music format. Before "Autobahn", most electronic innovators (think TANGERINE DREAM) were stuck in a deep exploratory rut. But Ralf and Florian made the canny decision to abandon the influence of Stockhausen in favor of The Beach Boys, and the result was a hit that made them unlikely global superstars.

The next few Kraftwerk albums would define the newly-minted KlingKlang ideal for all time. But it's the lingering echoes of their closet avant-rock adolescence that make this album special: the still warm fossil of an all-too human impulse the band would soon and forever turn their backs on.

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