Computer World

Kraftwerk

Elektra Records, 1981

REVIEW BY: Eric Atwell

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/18/2000

When you consider just how far ahead of their time these Germans were, it blows your friggin' mind. Computer World, from 1981, resonates with the crisp sound of new advances in analog synthesizers. Not only that -- the beats on this album predate house/techno/drum and bass by 15 years and still sound good. I love Germans; half my family is German, so naturally I fell into a fascination with this group after picking up the seminal Trans-Europe Express on a whim in a Providence, Rhode Island record store.

Check out the track "Home Computer" - a techno backbeat that really punctuates the vision of Kraftwerk's future world of computers and interconnected users. Considering the medium on which you're reading this review I'd say the band was spot on in their observations of the coming "computer world". Plus, the vocals and stilted drum breaks are straight out of Mike Myers' "Sprockets" skit. One must imagine hundreds of German boheems in their black turtlenecks bopping to this stuff.bim_ad_daily_vault_print_250

"Pocket Calculator" is the hit on this album. With an undeniably new wave feel to it, the song drags the synthesizer kicking and screaming into the synth-pop genre. Which is really a metaphor for Kraftwerk's output in the 70's -- they brought all-electronic music into popular consciousness, in the meantime birthing the sound that would be the backbone for hip hop, electronica, and the aforementioned new wave. "I'm the operator / with my pocket calculator."

Admittedly, I'm no fan of most dance music. Unless I'm loaded, since that's the only time I can dance. But for the most part it's dull and repetitive and mostly sounds like disco. I've often wondered how folks sit in their cars blaring this shit and there is absolutely nothing going on except for that incessant thud-thud-thud-thud and some wanky synth lines. Naturally break dancing is another story. I'll never master the "robot," but damn if I don't try! 'Course, I was a fresh popper in fourth grade.

Kraftwerk really slams perspective on this entire (I'm not grandstanding or lionizing here - I'm sincere) genre. They started it. Any of their early albums is sort of an epiphany where you think, "oh, I get it." On Computer World it takes one listen to the title track to understand that, in context, this group of musician-scientists (props to anyone making their own rhythm units in the early 70s) established an entire genre. "Computer World" the song is an electronic cornucopia, with granite heavy lyrics describing a world moved by money, people, and technology.

It's probably worth your while. I'm a guitar freak but this stuff is so sincere I find it hard to resist. I recently picked up an old analog synth to try my hand with the electronic pulse. I highly recommend checking out any Kraftwerk titles. If you have any affinity for the fat synth you'll love this.

Rating: A

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© 2000 Eric Atwell and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Elektra Records, and is used for informational purposes only.