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




Progressive Electronic

2.51 | 130 ratings

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Special Collaborator
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

SouthSideoftheSky | 1/5 |


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