on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2017 26 Jan

How good are they really?

von: Michael Engelbrecht Filed under: Blog | TB | 9 Comments



When I found the two first Kraftwerk albums in a vinyl record store two days ago, I immediately bought them carefully watching both sides of the street when leaving the shop. Now, fact is, I wanted to get hold of these highly acclaimed works for a very long time, ready to wait for the real thing, not updating my memory with youtube. Fact is I only heard them two or three times in my teenager days, and missed the copies when a very limited, officially blessed, number of vinyl reissues had been published in the 90’s. Fact is, too, I only have a pale memory, and the guys from Kraftwerk didn’t care for these objects of desire very much. It will be a delight to hear if they stand the test of my ears (or time). Will the experience be overpowered by nostalgia, is it just a thrilling insight into the band’s first line-up and their first steps to stardom and class? What did Walter Bachauer think about them? Does anyone of you have a clear opinion?


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  1. Michael Engelbrecht: / eine-zeitreise-auf-plattencovern …

  2. Jan Reetze:

    I purchased the first album when I was 14. I think it was the first LP I bought from my pocket money. I regularly listened to „das neue werk“ at NDR radio, so new sounds were something I knew and found interesting. But Kraftwerk, for me, hit a new bell: They amalgamated these esoteric avantgarde sounds and rock music. For me, this was an epiphany. (I also loved the cover grapic and the inside photo, by the way. I still do.) What I still remember is that most of my class mates found this album funny, they didn’t see it as rock music, they saw it as a sort of novelty show or something like that. – My feeling already then was that Ruckzuck was a great number, but the real diamond might be Megaherz. I think I was right then.

    When I listened to the second album the first time, I was unbelievably disappointed. I wanted to sell it immediately — it was soooo boring. I’m happy that I didn’t sell it. I fell in love with it after a couple of spins. Side 2 is early industrial, it took me a while to get familiar with it, but I still think it’s not a masterpiece. They had to do it very fast. Conny Plank had managed to get two nights of free recording time at a studio where usually Vicky Leandros and other schlager singers recorded, and these two nights were all the time they had. But Klingklang is still today a gem (except the editing flaw at 10:20 that always, really always kicks me offtrack).

    I don’t know what Bachauer would say about these two albums, but this is what I say. They don’t need to rerelease their pre-Kraftwerk opus „Tone Float“ which is really outdated, but it’s still a pity that Kraftwerk are not willing to release remastered versions of their first three albums. They are still worth it.

  3. Hans-Dieter Klinger:

    I bought Kraftwerk 1 shortly after its release. It was completely different from Rock Music of those days. That’s the reason why I love it. My favourites are Ruckzuck, Megahertz, Vom Himmel hoch. Amongst the later and more famous albums I was only interested in Computerwelt (because of Taschenrechner, very funny)

    So today I listened to Kraftwerk 1 again and looked for some RIAS broadcasts moderated by Walter Bachauer. I found just one. It’s not one about Kraftwerk. Kraftwerk appears just as an ouverture to a long discourse on MusikComputerWelt. Here you can follow the first 10 minutes until Lejaren Hiller and John Cage (broadcasted in September 1981)

    The complete essay can be downloaded here

  4. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Today Kraftwerk is dead like Mungo Jerry. No artistic ambitions anymore, Florian and Ralf love riding on their bicycles, did that boring Tour de France album – and are perfect masters of earning much money with pasttime glories. This is totally okay with me: they did their masterpieces, and my favourite album is TRANS EUROPA EXPRESS.

    Now, what a pleasure to listen to these two early works, yesterday, first time in ages (on a day my unconscious created a brand new Eno song in a lucid dream) – o what a day that was (yesterday – all my troubles far away:))

    I think Florian and Ralf don’t see these early works as „vintage Kraftwerk“ though there a r e several tracks that anticipate their near future. But both albums are a lot about searching and – not always finding, so to speak.

    There are groove tracks, sound experiments, different line-ups, and sometimes a lack of studio time for going into details (as Jan writes). But this is part of the joy to listen to this. The necessity to make quick decisions leads to something like side 2 of KRAFTWERK 2 (that I find is brilliant in its own peculiar way, a kind of more harmonic parallel to the English avantgarde of AMM).

    Maybe Florian and Ralf are – here – reminded of their younger egos fiddling around with child-like curiosity. Though I have my problems with some passages (f.e. the first minutes of Stradivarus), these two albums are wonderful reminders how mind-blowing music can be if it doesn’t fit the agenda of zeitgeist and fashion. Today KRAFTWERK is a „branding“, and these first statements are (in their ears) strolling through too many sideways. So, being first class business guys today, they put these gems behind (they might be bothered thinking about their „old fire“).

  5. Lajla:

    Kraftwerk wird am 1.7.2017 anlässlich der durch Düsseldorf rollenden Tour de France ein zweistündiges Konzert geben. Ich werde dann sicher woanders Fahrrad fahren.

  6. ijb:

    I got the first few Kraftwerk albums as copies from someone who got them from someone else who found them as limited CD releases some time ago. Still great to listen to. I never really understood why Schneider and Hütter did not re-release them as part of their backcatalogue re-release series a few years ago. It’s such a pity, since they’re surely no less important albums of the era than the albums they since have chosen as „classics“, starting with „Autobahn“. Beside these two untitled albums there is also the actual debut „Tone Float“ released under the name „Organisation“:

    What do you think of it?

    I also got a copy of „K4“, a semi-official live album from Bremen 1971. The only one I don’t know is third album „Ralf und Florian“.

  7. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Not to release them: it’s just smart branding business.

    Lajla’s note just confirmed my thoughts in a way.

  8. Jan Reetze:

    Kraftwerk dead like Mungo Jerry? Hm. I think that’s not fair. Kraftwerk were more inventive with every album they did than other bands in their whole career.

    The last one, „Tour de France Soundtracks“ might sound a bit dim, but a even a mediocre album by Kraftwerk is still better than 90 per cent of all others. (And, btw, it consists mainly from leftover material from the mid-eighties — for unknown reasons they released only the single then.) As Ralf Hütter once asked a reporter: What do you expect us to do? Dying?

    Every Kraftwerk album, this is one of the secrets of that band, is always immediately recognizable as „Kraftwerk“, but every album is its own universe. There are not two Kraftwerk albums offering the same (except „The Mix“, but that’s a special case).

    Ralf Hütter for sure knows that he can’t top his work from the 70s and early 80s. He would need Karl Bartos for this who was more important for the band’s concept and compositions than most people are aware of. Florian Schneider saw that and consequently left.

    So Ralf had to decide: End the project completely or continue it without becoming an act for nostalgia festivals? You cannot seriously expect them to hit the stage with the instruments from the 80s, it would be ridiculous. (And as far as I’m concerned, I hate this old-man’s habit of saying: „Yeah, their early albums were great, but today …“)

    So the guys brought the music up to fresh sounds without giving up the Kraftwerk appeal, they developed a 3D stage show that is singular as far as I know and well worth seeing, and they started a sort of never-ending tour. But the repertoire in itself is still valid.

    I think they did everything right. And would I be in Düsseldorf when the Tour de France starts, I would try not to miss it.

  9. Michael Engelbrecht:

    I understand. Nevertheless it is just a smart way to build your own „Denkmal“, presenting the old stuff with new technologies. High level recycling! If I would be in Düsseldorf on that day, I would definitely prefer swimming in the big river – I know a nice beach there.

    (Nicht gerade besonders geistreich, eine nach wie vor Doping-verseuchte Radsportveranstaltung zu bespassen, denke ich)

    I love returning to their old albums. They will always be my number three band of „Krautrock“, behind Can and Cluster. But the most history books will crown them … no reason to die :)

    And, in this case, their early two albums were not their best, just really interesting and good ones!

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