EUROPE ENDLESS

It’s just another elderly musician gone. Happens so regularly that writing rock obituaries would be a full-time job. So why does the death of Kraftwerk co-founder Florian Schneider fill me with sadness? Actually, not sadness… loss. A electronic hole in the musicverse leaving one man standing. Hütter and Schneider, Schneider and Hütter. Now just Ralf. Ralf and some hired hands. Unfair, that, seeing as Fritz Hilpert has been in the band since 1987. But the second coming, enjoyable as it was/is, is not the core, not the artificial heart of the matter.

I find it hard to put the loss into words. Perhaps it works in memories…

Hearing the edited version of “Autobahn” on AM radio in mid-1975…

Being disconcerted by the chilly menace of Radio-Activity…

Wondering at the sumptuous romance of Trans-Europe Express (TEE to those who travel regularly). How could electronic music be so lush?

Rediscovering Kraftwerk with the lightly renovated The Mix, sung in German…

Delight when the boy connected with The Man-Machine. (Kraftwerk are his favourite band. In fact, the only band he has noticed)

Feeling excited when asked to pen something on Kraftwerk for Discrepancy Records, then dread. What can I say? Who wants to read about grief and loss and a 73 year old German gentleman who retired from the band in 2008?

That’s not the angle, of course. The accepted wisdom is that Kraftwerk, formed in Düsseldorf in the late 60s, were pioneers—perhaps the pioneers—of electronic music. Although this comment conveniently forgets that many ‘serious’ avant-garde musicians had been exploring electronic devices as musical instruments for years (Hallo Stockhausen! Hi John Cage!) it is a much stronger claim for the world of popular music.

Synth-pop, Electro, House, Techno, Drum and Bass… some of the styles of electronic music owing varying amounts to the work of Hütter and Schneider.

What’s fascinating for me, thinking about what to say to those unfamiliar with Kraftwerk’s meticulous craft and dry wit, is how different people might easily find a different entry point to this small but essential catalogue. For example…

Retro fans will simply grin their heads off the first time they hear the original side-long trip of “Autobahn”.

Have a love affair with Europe? Spin Trans-Europe Express and be transported in opulent railway comfort to another time and place.

Enjoy some 80s synth-pop? Start with The Man-Machine. It’s strong songs and accessibility should get you robot-dancing like Flight of the Conchords.

Minimalism draw you in? Unless your humour circuits are burned out, Computer World is for you.

Hardcore electronica more your thing? Check out Electric Café.

The Mix works well as an introduction and 3-D is a lavish career summary full of reconstructions and contemporary interpretations (though it has no input from Florian Schneider other than writer credits).

Influential? Fuck yeah.

Guess there is enough material for my Discrepancy piece. Time to pack some more records for the house move. But maybe I’ll pull out the Kraftwerk stuff and spin TEE before bed.

Europe, endless.

Schlaf gut, Florian.

 

23 comments

  1. Perfect Bruce. You and me both with this chap.

    My son, despite being a pretty fluent German speaker doesn’t like them, wrongly in my opinion. So good on mini VC!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Joe. Intriguing with your son. As I recall he is quite into some experimentalism (Ms Bush, for eg). Has he heard the early redacted part of the Kraftwerk catalogue? I’m thinking particularly of the ‘Ralf and Florian’ album. It’s combination of acoustic and electronic sounds gives it a very different feel.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well said, Bruce.
    It’s a parenting highlight when the kids claim one of ‘our’ bands as their favourites – my oldest was proudly listening/singing along to the arkells the other day, her current favourite!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And even better when the artist is ‘local’!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My daughters go for that 1970s synth sound – Yellow Magic Orchestra as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right on. I have played the boy some Kraftwerk-influenced music, including YMO. He did respond quite well to them. Thanks for the reminder!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I totally missed YMO until late last year – I figured you’d know about them.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Know, enjoy, respect. Saw Ruichi Sakamoto live a year or two ago.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Trans Europe Express is the one for me. One of my favourite albums.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It has only been the last two years I felt brave enough to admit an affection for Kraftwerk. Funny how musicians are so important, especially during this strange time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Somewhat surprised It required courage, Neil. Who was on your case about the Teutonic Technophiles? I’ll send die Roboten ‘round to sort ‘Em out.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was more the fear of synthesizers not played by men in capes, and the teenage cliques, clubs and tribes I belonged to.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. OK. “Stand down Robot enforcers”.

          Like

  6. I agree, “meticulous craft and dry wit” and it’s a sad loss.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Admittedly, I’m not into Kraftwerk, even though they are from my native country – well, I suppose that wouldn’t be the most compelling reason to begin with.

    But there’s no question this wasn’t just another band, and it’s certainly no coincidence their influence extended far beyond Germany’s borders.

    Schneider’s death is also a painful reminder that many of our music heroes are in the twilights of their careers and lives: Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen, Donald Fagen, just to name some music artists I truly admire.

    Realistically, the next 5-10 years are going to be tough. On a more cheerful note, beautiful music will always be with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Music may be immortal, but musicians certainly are not. Sometimes we are reminded of our own finite lifespans when someone who’s music has soundtracked our lives (or parts thereof) dies. As I type this I’m hearing the news that Little Richard has gone.
      We honour their contributions, we spin favourite tunes, we appreciate our good fortune at having the joy of music.
      Vale.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. You’ve triggered an embarrassing memory with this one, Bruce. True story: I had a date in college with a young lady, and when I arrived to pick her up, her visiting brother greeted me and said she had been delayed by her job. He invited me in, put on Radio-Activity, and lit up some herb for us. By the time she got home, we were both stoned out of minds; she got angry and told us both to go sober up somewhere. We never actually had that date, but that was my introduction to Kraftwerk. 😉 – Marty

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Brilliant story, Marty. Some Rasta-activity to pass the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Bruce, here is a strange random factoid, which I’m sending, because of this post, and your antique electronics in the last one. This weekend, I drove through a little village in the Finger Lakes, Trumansburg, where my dad lived as a kid, and when we passed the Venice Pizzeria, he mentioned, for I think the 32nd consecutive time, “That’s where they used to make the Moogs years ago, you know, like Kraftwerk used.” The Minimoog was part of their ’70’s gear I guess, back in the Ancient Analog era. Sorry to say, to me this band will always be more interesting than actually enjoyable or “relatable.” (Don’t think I’ve ever used that word before). I just played “Pocket Calculator” and “Heimcomputer” again, last heard on my college radio station, and they still make me want to jump out the window. But you wrote another really convincing tribute, excellent writing, as always. Good luck with the move.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. As usual like your personal experience with the band. I did dig the tunes I heard when they first came out. Never got off of the ‘Trans Europe Express’ to check out later recordings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Man Machine set a course for synth pop, with the result some Kraftwerk fans loathe it. I don’t. It’s creative, accessible and very enjoyable. Tour de France is slick, but it grows on you. But I’m with you, CB. TEE is superb. Like riding a luxury train between the wars. Fancy a martini in the lounge?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for that Bruce I will follow your lead and yes keep bringing the martini’s until i’m paralyzed.

        Liked by 1 person

Comments and responses welcome for all posts: present or past. Please join in!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: