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




Progressive Electronic

2.51 | 130 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
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" (one of this album's working titles) 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. The "Techno pop" title was later used for this album when it was re-released in 2009 with a bonus track.

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.

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 pArt 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.

Easy Livin | 3/5 |


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