There’s an argument to be made that Kraftwerk are one of the most influential bands of the 1970s, given how they are more responsible than anyone for the transition from the fairly abstract tone poems of ’70s German electronic to synthpop. That’s an argument I’m extremely receptive to on their pioneering mid and late ’70s albums.
But it’s 1981 and synthpop is now very much a thing. Kraftwerk is still doing their thing and, at least in some ways, the world is starting to pass them by. This is a very Kraftwerk album and I’m at least a little mystified by the acclaim. Like, to me, this sounds like Kraftwerk, not that different from how they sounded in the late ’70s.
Are the songs here better than on their earlier records? “Computer Love” was a bit of a hit, but I find it kind of middling in comparison to their most famous track. In fact, most of the songs here are what you might call “ballads” if they we can have ballads that sound like they were made by primitive computers. Kraftwerk was usually not the most energetic band, but this album is fairly low key. At least some of that is on the material.
But another reason why I’m not bowled over like so many critics and fans is because it just sounds like Kraftwerk to me. I understand that, at this stage, Kraftwerk might just be one of those bans that has a thing and does it, as opposed to the evolving thing they were in the mid 70s. But, given how I feel about electronic music, that doesn’t really do much for me.
I’m not trying to be critical. I think this is a decent album and very much what I was expecting. What I’m reacting to is the extremely positive reviews and the ranking on Rate Your Music – the 6th best album of 1981?!?! Really??? I just don’t hear it. Because it sounds like another Kraftwerk album, something they’ve basically already done. It’s hard to get super excited about that given the year and what they had indeed already done.