Trans-Europe Express – Kraftwerk

Posted on May 3, 2016

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DSC_5294Okay, I’ve never really been into Electronic music and certainly not Kraftwerk so now we are now moving into unfamiliar territory.
I had a great friend who knew that I loved another German band called Popol Vuh, and he so suggested me many times that I had to try out Kraftwerks second album entitled “Kraftwerk 2”. After much “pressure” from him I finally gave in and what I heard was something that I never thought this strange band would do, but nevertheless I was really satisfied with it and ran out to buy the album.

But recently I got interested in taking a closer look at these very strange Germans, so I went out hunting for some CDs that had the distinctive Kraftwerk sound and Trans-Europe Express was the only one on my list that I could find.
Even the guy at my local CD store said this was a good album to start with so naturally I was excited to put this disc into work once I got home, and It really is a strange case that is hard for me to describe.
Like I said, I’m not really into Electronic music of this sort so listening to Kraftwerk’s trademark sound both got me confused and more interested, and I think their albums need to have a track-by-track review if one are going to do them justice.
I often try not to do those kinds of reviews since I want to give the reader a wholesome impression of an album, or rather my impression of the complete album and maybe go into details for a couple of stand out songs. So let’s start with the track-by-track review and if you just want my overall impression, you can scroll past this.
I also have to mention that there is a German and an English version of this album, and my review is for the English one.

  • Europe Endless
    This is the first track of the album and it really starts out strange. It kinda sounds like a nice whimsical soundtrack to an old Nintendo 8 bit game, and basically sounds like this for about 9:40 minutes with various layers of different synthesizer coming and going.
    There is also some lyrics (more like spoken words) that gives us the only hint on what this song is about.
    At first I thought “is this it?” but later as I listened more to it I kinda got to like it more and more. It just has this nice laid back feeling to it, and I find myself 4 minutes in wondering if time really flies by that fast?
    I could easily see myself listening to this while going on a train ride the next time, I’ll make sure to try that out! ;)
  • The Hall of Mirrors
    This song was a twist because it’s SO much darker than I thought Kraftwerk could ever be, and it’s really a strange direction to go after such a jolly happy tune like Europe Endless.
    It’s about 8 minutes long with a good vocal performance that seems to come from a real desolate person, and the different synths put together here with some very deep lyrics creates a very dreadful atmosphere. Gives me chills every time!
    This has to be one of the best I’ve heard from Kraftwerk, but I would say the German version is a bit better so go check that out if you are interested!
  • Showroom Dummies
    Or “Schaufensterpuppen” in German, is a song where the lyrics are the heavy part.
    It tells a short life story from the perspectives of mannequins standing in the shop window, and that’s a topic that has great potential for some deep lyrics and some really cool and creepy music.
    Unfortunately it just comes off as a bit goofy to me, though just reading the lyrics shows a different feeling to it.
    That is until you get to the part when the mannequins goes into a club and starts dancing..
    Nevertheless, it’s still a good song that I can listen to and enjoy so don’t be too quick to carry this one out to the garbage.
  • Trans-Europe Express/Metal On Metal
    Yeah in this case I have to combine both these songs into one, since they both feels like one huge song with no break in between them.
    The title track is famous for its train sounding rhythm, and even though it’s cheesy it is what makes Kraftwerk to what it is. I really like the robotic voice “singing” the title and the overall synth layed down here, makes for two great songs molded into one.
    I can see why many fans consider this song to be one of their best ever.
  • Franz Schubert/Endless Endless
    Schubert has done some amazing work, some even used in my favorite film Häxan from 1922 (if you haven’t watched it, shame on you) and he is one of the biggest composers of classical music so it’s nice that they gave him a little homage here.
    But I don’t get the music linked to him here, maybe it’s something that I haven’t heard before but it sure mostly sounds like a repeat of the first track with some variations here and there.
    And the same goes for Endless Endless which closes the album pretty nicely, but it could just has been part of Franz Schubert instead of a stand alone track.3684103414_2ed491cacf_o

Trans-Europe Express is considered by many fans to be Kraftwerk’s best work to date, and even their former member Wolfgang Flür have stated this to be his personal favorite though not the groups best effort.
And you got to give the band credit for what they’ve done. When I grew up they were always the subject of mockery and both their music style and live shows was the stereotypical German lifestyle. Of course that’s not true, but you have to admire Kraftwerk for always doing what they wanted to and never seemed to give a fuck what the general public thought.
Even though outsiders such as myself easily can say that they are crazy people who just wants to do crazy shit just for the sake of it, they actually are really clever people and it shows.
For example; one of their most famous songs, The Robots (Die Roboter), was inspired when the general public “bashed” them for resembling robots while performing and such.
I mean, that’s a middle finger to the haters if I ever saw it, but still without being mean spirited and not taking themselfs or the backlash too seriously.
They are a band/group that just starts brainstorming ideas from just about anything that later in the end becomes the theme of their albums or songs. That’s just awesome, and goes to show that music doesn’t have to be complex or have deep mening to be good or enjoyable.

Trans-Europe Express has opened the way for me to get into Kraftwerk and other Electronic music, and I can safely say that this album grows on me every time I put it in the CD player.
It’s an overall happy-to-somewhat-darker record to listen to when you feel like relaxing and not thinking about all the problems and shit that surrounds you.
So if you are into Electronic music you have to give this one a listen as it is not only is a very good album, but also a very historical important record for the genre and Kraftwerk themselfs.
This album is also exactly what you think of when you hear the name Kraftwerk, so it was indeed a great album to start with!
I also highly recommend you picking up the German versions of the albums instead of the English ones.
I mean, why listen to Kraftwerk if it’s not in German?

As for me.. well, I’m off to buy the Die Mensch-Maschine album :)

8/10

Photo 1: Robin Renmark

Photo 2: Andy Miah

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Posted in: Övrigt