Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Rendezvous on Champs-Élysées

Kraftwerk : Trans-Europe Express

In March of 1977, the German electronic rock band Kraftwerk released Trans-Europe Express, an album so influential the LA Times called it "the most important pop album of the last 40 years". Pitchfork Media called Trans-Europe Express the sixth best album of the 1970's, writing"the day will soon come, if it hasn't already, that Trans-Europe Express joins the ranks of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band and Exile on Main Street as a record that simply cannot be written about". 

 The tunes on Trans-Europe Express are more melodious than in past releases. The rhythmic title track is a family favorite, because of its subject matter : the TEE, a network of European passenger trains. 

The band investigated the sounds of passing trains at railway bridges, modifying the sound until they came up with the hypnotic beat. A year earlier, Ralf Hutter and Emil Schult were in Los Angeles where they met their idols, David Bowie and Iggy Pop, putting finishing touches on Station to Station. That explains the lyrics :"From station to station/ Back to Dusseldorf City/ Meet Iggy Pop and David Bowie".

Finding reviews from 1977 isn't easy. Robert Christgau was on top of things, as usual, giving the album an A- rating

No, I have not shorted out or fallen in love with a cyborg. No, I do not like Kraftwerk's previous craft-work, Radio-Activity, which consists mostly of bleeps. But this shares with Autobahn a simple-minded air of mock-serious fascination with melody and repetition. Plus its textural effects sound like parodies by some cosmic schoolboy of every lush synthesizer surge that's ever stuck in your gullet -- yet also work the way those surges are supposed to work. Plus the cover and sleeve photos are suitable for framing.

Looking back, after decades of critical and fan appreciation , Trans-Europe Express has become a true classic. Joy Division 's Ian Curtis convinced the band they should play the album before shows. Drummer Stephen Morris says "It worked because it gets up a lot of momentum. Trans-Europe Express just seemed to express an optimism - even if people see it as machine music".  

In 1982 Afrika Bambaata used part of the melody of "Trans-Europe Express" in his hop hop classic "Planet Rock".

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