Music Monday: Trans-Europe Express by Kraftwerk

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 26/250Title: Trans-Europe Express
Artist: Kraftwerk
Year: 1977
Position: #98

“We are showroom dummies”

– ‘Showroom Dummies’  – Kraftwerk

Very few albums on this top 250 albums come from a non-English-speaking nation. In fact one of them is a language other than English. With that odd fact in mind this week’s album comes from the group that perpetuated every stereotype of a German musician in the years to follow; who else but electro-pioneers Kraftwerk.

I won’t spend this post poking fun at their on-stage persona. I have far too much respect for Kraftwerk and what this album (Trans-Europe Express) has done to the musical world. As I heard opening track ‘Europe Endless’ for the first time it really dawned on me just how much music owes to these four German musicians. Acts like Daft Punk, Air, Röyksopp, Lindstrøm and any other number of purely electronic musicians would not be able to exist outright. Others such as Radiohead, Beck, Arcade Fire and the likes of M.I.A. and Robyn would have a far more limited palette to work with.

If it was not for the very recognizable voices that appear throughout the songs (easily recognizable for anyone who has heard their hit single ‘The Model’) you could argue that this was released in the last calendar year by a new act  in reaction to Daft Punk’s hit album Random Access Memories. It is strange to listen to since it sounds like a mixture of retro and contemporary with a little bit of kitsch value thrown in.

The production values are not as lush as we would come to expect from modern charted electronic musicians. There is a stark minimalism to the songs which relishes the use of repetition. Also, a lot of the musical and lyrical themes continue throughout the albums such as vanity, illusion and some of the earliest uses of manipulated (or what we would now call Autotuned) vocals. Strange to think that this is 37 years old, shows how many things have not musically or thematically changed since.

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