Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Kraftwerk

  • Autobahn [Vertigo, 1975] B-
  • Trans-Europe Express [Capitol, 1977] A-
  • The Man-Machine [Capitol, 1978] B+
  • Computer World [Warner Bros., 1981] B
  • The Mix [Elektra, 1991] ***

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Autobahn [Vertigo, 1975]
The Iron Butterfly of überrock--Mike Oldfield for unmitigated simpletons, sort of, and yet in my mitigated way I don't entirely disapprove. A melody or two worth hearing twice emanates from a machine determined to rule all music with a steel hand and some mylar, and the title track is longer than "In-a-Gadda-da-Vida" sans drum solo, with a lyric (trot provided) that could become the "What's Life? A magazine" of high school German classes all over America. B-

Trans-Europe Express [Capitol, 1977]
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. A-

The Man-Machine [Capitol, 1978]
Only a curmudgeon could reject a group that synthesizes the innovations of Environments and David Seville & the Chipmunks, not to mention that it's better make-out (and dance) music. B+

Computer World [Warner Bros., 1981]
I once convinced myself to enjoy this band--if there had to be synthesizer rock, I thought, better it should be candidly dinky. And this is their funniest to date--every time I hear that machine intone "I program my home computer/Bring myself into the future," I want to make a tape for all those zealots who claim a word processor will change my life. But fun plus dinky doesn't make funky no matter who's dancing to what program. Funk has blood in it. B

The Mix [Elektra, 1991]
best-of with the bass boosted--very funktional, meine Herren ("Pocket Calculator," "The Robots") ***