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Kraftwerk - Trans-Europe Express [Aka: Trans-Europa Express] CD (album) cover




Progressive Electronic

3.95 | 324 ratings

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4 stars Following the slightly rushed Radioactivity, Kraftwerk took a bit longer to polish up this offering, which also saw Florian Schneider contributing less to the songwriting. The result was not quite a concept album; the theme of European travel is explored, but only on about half of the songs. it's also an album which was released in both English language and German versions, and in many ways the German version is more effective.

The album opens with one of Kraftwerk's grand electronic travelogues, Europe Endless, a kind of Grand Tour for the synthesiser age. With a fast midtempo beat and simple melodies seemingly plucked from the air, this is Kraftwerk at their best - not a beat or a syllable is extraneous. This is followed by the faintly sinister Hall Of Mirrors, a modern day story of Narcissus as re told by Will Self or JG Ballard. As is often the case with Karftwerk, the devil is in the details. This is an achingly minimal piece, the beat supplied by plodding electronic footsteps wearily seeking an exit that will never be found. The half spoken, half sung lyrics are translated effectively from the original German, but unless you're fluent only the English language version will make sense. The first half of the album closes with the uptempo Showroom Dummies, in which Kraftwerk exhibit the sly sense of humour which pervades some of their work. The story of showroom dummies going to a disco could be an old episode of Twilight Zone, or possibly Kraftwerk having fun at the expense of their own image. This is a track whic actually works better in German, even if you can't understand tthe lyrics.

Side 2 continues the European exploration theme with the title track, a hymn to the huge trains on which so many young Europeans explored their continent while interrailing. The rhythm is the sound of wheels on the track, as old as boogie woogie and at the same time as futuristic as the space shuttle. The lyrics are part travelogue and part reportage with some shameless name dropping - 'Meet Iggy Pop and David Bowie' (which actually happened). As on Autobahn, the doppler effect is simulated when the train passes through a station and other simulated sounds add to the atmosphere. This then segues into Metal on Metal, an instrumental which incorporates some of Kraftwerk's musique concrete influences, until after 13 minutes the brakes are applied and the mighty express reaches its destination. The album draws to a close with Franz Schubert, an eccentric but sincere tribute to the great composer whic recalls Ohm Sweet Ohm from the previous album and which again demonstrates their facility with melody. A brief reprise of Europe Endless rounds things off nicely.

TEE is something of a critic's favourite but is a bit uneven. It was hugely influential in all kinds of unlikely ways; Siouxsie and the Banshees did a cover version of Hall of Mirrors, while the title track was much sampled in the early days of hip hop. Greater artistic and commercial success was still to come.

Syzygy | 4/5 |


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