Monday, May 21, 2018

Functioning Automatic

Kraftwerk : Die Roboter

In May of 1978, Kraftwerk released Die Mensch-Maschine (The Man Machine) ushering in an age of electronic pop music that would inspire everyone from Gary Numan, to The Human League, from Depeche Mode to New Order.  Kraftwerk has always been one of the most mysterious bands of the rock era. Upon first listening to their album, you might think the band has decided to keep its most human qualities as distant as possible from the music they play.

"We are playing the machines, the machines play us," Ralf Hütter explained at the time. "It is really the exchange and friendship we have with the machines which make us build a new music."

With time, listeners pick up on Kraftwerk's wicked sense of irony, most apparent at the record launch in Paris where the press were greeted by the Kraftwerk automatons. If the press criticized their music as so cold they could have been written by robots, then the band members would give them real robots.

For many, the highlight of the album is "The Model", a song so ahead of its time it would take five years before it would reach the U.K. Top 40, sounding not at all out of place among the likes of Soft Cell and The Human League. The model may be beautiful but she is just as much of a robot as anyone else, "posing for consumer products now and then".

The Man Machine is the greatest statement Kraftwerk would ever make. In fact, it's so perfect the band would never come close to topping it. They took a three year break before releasing Computer World. Soon Hütter and bandmate Florian Schneider would become obsessed with cycling, riding up to 200 kilometers a day.

The world's greatest technological rock band would be side tracked by something as simple as a bicycle.

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