Tag Archives: kraftwerk

1001 Songs – 1978: Part Two

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

Human Fly – The Cramps

With a traditionally country chord progression in the background (I know, I was surprised at myself for noticing that too) played on more distorted instruments with a punk feel to it – ‘Human Fly’ is not quite the genre mash-up I was expecting today. It’s called psychobilly and like nothing I have heard on this list so far.

What’s interesting about taking something so quintessentially country (or rockabilly) and making it punk is how it makes the whole thing just that bit more unsettling than if it was a straight punk song. Very niche though, so can see how it never really took off.

Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground) – The Jacksons

It’s amazing how you get these songs how you primarily know for the chorus. From the title and the first verse, I had absolutely no clue which song this was. I’m assuming I’ve heard a sample of it in a film or this has been remixed at some point down the line.

Like with all disco, I am glad that Spotify has a radio version – as at nearly 4 minutes it was already getting overly repetitive. Don’t get me wrong it’s a great chorus, but it needs more than that.

(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea – Elvis Costello & The Attractions

I know that I have listened to this for the albums list. Over four years ago, and I haven’t listened to the albums since. I wonder if my taste has already mutated enough since then to give them more of a go, because this is already sounding a lot better than I remembered. I also finally twigged that the Stefy song ‘Chelsea’ took inspiration from this, so basically I’m only properly listening to this now.

I really enjoy the new wave aspect to this track, which is what I said I liked about the parent album This Year’s Model, and I really need to follow up on this in the new year before I get bogged under by 2020 albums.

One Nation Under a Groove – Funkadelic

Inadvertently ended up with the album version of this song rather than the shortened 7-inch single version. This didn’t mean the slow death that I had expected, sure it’s still too long at over 7 minutes, but there’s enough variation to actually keep it going.

This is one of the major funk songs of the era and one that actually borrows a lot from rock music rather than feeding from the disco well. I might prefer the shorter version, but this pretty good.

Das Model – Kraftwerk

Six months ago I was listening to The Man-Machine as I had a big coding breakthrough at work and was celebrating that in tandem with my being able to stay in the job that I love. Listening to this song now, in the context of other songs at the time, ‘Das Model’ is such an anomaly and an incredible triumph.

So much of what I listen to now only exists because of bands like Kraftwerk giving birth to electronic music like this. As a kid I knew this and didn’t think much of this song, but now I absolutely love it.

Shot by Both Sides – Magazine

Somehow I managed to recognise a Buzzcocks riff in this song (which makes sense as Magazine was founded by a member of that band) which makes three so far in this batch, so I guess my ears have been properly screwed on today.

This is another example of, although the first in this batch, of post-punk. It’s also a song by someone who left a punk band because he wanted to make prog rock. So I guess this is where prog rock and post-punk meet? Maybe something like that. Still though, we are early days for post-punk and this is one of those songs that I can see influencing those yet to come.

Public Image – Public Image Ltd

I can hear The Cure in this. There is something in this song that immediately made me thing of Robert Smith, which I guess is the specific line of post-punk that ‘Public Image’ helped to progress.

It’s difficult to listen to this song and look at the album cover without thinking of an older Jon Lydon making stupid adverts for butter and being a dick on I’m A Celebrity…. If anything, hearing him do this rather then The Sex Pistols is actually helping me to understand why he is such an interesting figure in this area of music. I have to listen to Public Image’s second album for the album list, and this is making that look like an attractive one to listen to soon.

Alternative Ulster – Stiff Little Fingers

So many punk (or punk-leaning) acts that I have listened to for this list were rebelling against something for the sake of it. Then you come across a track like ‘Alternative Ulster’ where there’s actually some substance to the subject matter – specifically here the ‘Troubles’ period of Northern Irish history. There’s a rallying cry here against an actual oppressive an unfair system for a specific period in history, which makes ‘Alternative Ulster’ a proper musical time capsule.

(White Man) in Hammersmith Palais – The Clash 

The year after this, The Clash would go on to release London Calling – one of most acclaimed albums of all time. Before this, they released another self-named hugely acclaimed album. Both were punk or post-punk – so this song with some punk vocals infused with reggae is a bit out of left-field, and I kinda wish it had stayed there. I know that this is a very popular track, but it didn’t work for me.

Progress: 492/1021

1001 Songs – 1977: Part One

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

God Save the Queen – Sex Pistols

This will be the batch of songs where we say goodbye to the Sex Pistols. They must be one of a select group of artists who not only have two songs listed from the same year, but also the same album. There’s no denying the level of influence that they had.

So, why this song. Well, it’s iconic for being a song that the UK music industry conspired against to prevent it from getting to number one in the singles charts. It’s really pathetic when you look back on it, especially as ‘God Save The Queen’ would now be considered pop-punk. It’s probably my favourite Sex Pistols song, but I’m not sure if that says a lot.

Trans-Europe Express – Kraftwerk

Where in the English-speaking world we were getting angry at the establishment, in Germany they were inventing a whole new genre of music. We had hints of electronic music being born from the ambient Neu! song from 1975, but here we are with something actual.

I originally listened to the album of the same name a few years ago and I have only appreciated them more and more since then. Songs like ‘Trans-Europe Express’ influenced so much of the music I love that I can only be thankful for it. It’s very simple, but it makes a statement of a new dawn breaking in music.

Sweet Gene Vincent – Ian Dury

Well, isn’t this a really strange song. There’s elements of old 1950s rock and roll here, there’s the scowl of proto-punk, then there’s some balladeering in the beginning and a strong cockney accent that comes out during the chant.

It’s a cool tribute to a rockabilly singer Gene Vincent, whereby Ian Dury mashes up his own style with that of the man he is honouring. Like a lot of interesting music, this caught be completely off-guard and is unlike any genre fusion I’ve heard before.

By This River – Brian Eno

Thanks to the ‘U Talkin U2 To Me’ podcast, I can never think of Brian Eno without Scott Aukerman referring to him as old sourpuss. Not exactly the name that comes to mind when listening to this gorgeous piece of ambient music.

This is another song where we are beginning to see the rise of the synthesizer and this explosion of different sounds to be found in music. ‘By This River’ is gentle and an interesting sign of the influence that Eno is going to have in the future as a producer.

Dum Dum Boys – Iggy Pop

I’ve heard a lot of Iggy Pop as part of the albums list, but that’s back when he was with The Stooges. In 1977, he released his first solo album and ‘Dum Dum Boys’ takes up about 20% of the run time.

This song, like the rest of the album, shows the beginnings of a new sub-genre that lasts to this day: post-punk. ‘Dum Dum Boys’ takes a lot of the punk instrumentation and slows it down to give this weighed down lament to the other members of The Stooges who have come and gone in the past.

It’s like a very rock and roll baptism where, through this song, Iggy Pop casts off his former life and starts on his next chapter… with help from David Bowie.

Com’e profondo il mare – Lucio Dalla

I, uh, don’t really know what to say about this song. I’ve read translations of the lyrics and get how this is a song about the poor situation that many Italians found themselves in during the 1970s (although, I’m not sure how much has really changed since). I’ve read about his life and his successes as a song-writer, but I’m still left with not much to say.

The song has a simple backing, where Dalla tries to fit as many lyrics as he can into each bar before slowing down for the titular repeated refrain. It’s okay as a song, but that’s about it. Not entirely sure what else there is…

Ghost Rider – Suicide

You really cannot look up this band without Google making sure you’re okay and not about to do something irreversible. I just want to tell Google that I’m fine and I just want to listen to this punk-style song about the Marvel comic book character of the same name.

I had the same issues when I listened to the album 18 months ago and still I find the music of Suicide to be such a cool synth-driven style of punk. ‘Ghost Rider’ is just this brilliant little nugget of music that makes you want to repeat it once it is over.

Orgasm Addict – Buzzcocks

After a beautiful piece of synth-punk it is back to the world of punk rock… and the results are making me cringe (not as much as the final song in this line-up makes me cringe, but I’ll be getting there soon enough).

It wouldn’t be as cringe if the moaning songs were taken out… and then I could say that I like it. Again, this just shows how much pop music has hardened as this feels like something we would now term as pop-punk.

Holidays in the Sun – Sex Pistols

‘Holidays in the Sun’ is a such a weird ode to a trip that the band made to West Berlin. It’s a good song, but why is this on the list?

By this point we’ve now heard the Sex Pistols deliver three very similar songs on this list and those placements come at the expense of other genres that aren’t represented. Then again, that’s probably because they’re the iconic Sex Pistols.

Peaches – The Stranglers

I hate this song so much. It makes me cringe so much that I find it so hard to be objective about it. How the hell is this the same band that will give us ‘Golden Brown’ in 1981.

Right, why is this song interesting? Well, it’s another entry that shows how adaptable punk music is and was already proving to be back in 1977. This time it’s a punk-reggae mix with a prominent dirty baseline and a chorus that I hate. Objectively, I get why this is on there, but personally I’d be glad to never hear this song again.

Progress: 454/1021

Acclaimed Albums – The Man-Machine by Kraftwerk

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 191/250Title: Die Mensch Maschine/The Man Machine
Artist: Kraftwerk
Year: 1978
Position: #237

So today was a bit of a cool day at work. I am currently learning a new computer language and I managed to complete my first proper project a few weeks ahead of schedule.

I only mention this, because The Man Machine was the album playing when I was doing the bulk of the final work and the first track (‘The Robots’) was the song going through my head during the walk around the office that lead to my final epiphany. If the track ‘Movies’ by Weyes Blood has become the anthem of my getting a permanent position in a job I love, The Man Machine might well be the album that I now associate with one of my big coding breakthroughs. Weirdly apt seeing how Kraftwerk’s music always has that tinge of man and machine combined.

Now, it isn’t just just because of this epiphany that I say this (although it will help with some retrospective rose-tinted glasses), but this albums is really good. I really liked their other entry on the list (Trans-Europe Express) and this is the step-up that I both hoping for and got in spades.

For Trans-Europe Express I enjoyed the minimalism and got to listen to the beginnings of one of my favourite genres of music. It was also weird to hear because somehow it managed to sound very current – something which I have found again with The Man Machine.

Listening to The Man-Machine has only galvanised my respect for Kraftwerk all the more and has properly demonstrated to me just how they could be considered one of the most influential groups of all time. Some have said that they are second only to The Beatles… and I can’t say I disagree when you consider how wide their music has reached.

With The Man Machine they took what made Trans-Europe Express a landmark album and turned it into something you could actually dance to. Tracks like ‘Spacelab’ and ‘The Model’ feel like watershed moments where this was no longer just electronic music, but electropop. It’s a chilled, swaying sort of danceable electropop mind you. Still though, this is pretty major.

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.