1974, Music

Autobahn (1975) by Kraftwerk

Though I might sound like a weird comparison, this record reminds me a lot of early, post-Barrett Pink Floyd albums, where they hadn’t figured out yet how to combine their three disparate impulses into a coherent whole that made musical sense. This record has the famous title track taking up one whole side of it. Then it has music from what sounds like a completely different band on the other side, music I would more associate with Neu! at their softest and most ethereal, or somebody like that. (Cluster, maybe?)

The title track is a landmark. It is definitely not my favourite thing, but I understand why it’s a big deal. I can imagine that not too many people had heard anything like the single edit. And when they found their way to the album, even fewer people had heard anything like this thing. It is impressive and a real landmark. I get tired of it, personally, but that’s because this is not my favourite kind of music. It does do what it sets out to do, I think, even if it doesn’t excite me like some other (mostly) electronic music from the era. It’s a successful musical realization of an idea.

The other side I actually like more, musically, than the title track. But it feels completely out of step with that first side, as if another band had made it. For me, there’s nothing linking the two – with the various obvious exception of the end of the last track – which is why I think of Pink Floyd and Meddle in particular, with two sides of (nearly) completely different music. Much like the Floyd, it feels as though they put one piece of music on the second side to link it to the first side and hoped we wouldn’t notice the vast disparity otherwise. (In the Floyd’s case, I’ll admit, this is much more extreme than here. And maybe I’m just nitpicking and most people don’t notice.)

I am left wanting to listen to a whole record by the band that created the second side of music, while fully acknowledging that the band which created the first side is a bigger deal. But that first side is a really big deal. Probably one of the most important “electronic” music pieces of its decade (and, therefore, ever).


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