In 1976, as the group was beginning work on the album, a friend casually remarked that its music was like "electronic blues," and suggested it do a song about the Trans-Europe Express. Kraftwerk structured the album around the concept of a train moving across a continent that was rapidly becoming borderless and digital. The album glimmers into motion with "Europe Endless," a flowing, glowing hymn to the "real life and postcard views" of the Old World. The beats are crisp, the synths lush and percussive, and the track shines like a pre-emptive elegy for history as we know it. The eerie "Showroom Dummies" is both richly melodic and formally fresh; the tune is driven by a cybernetic hand-clap sound that's heavier than most Zeppelin riffs. When the infamous, haunting melody of the title track segues into "Metal on Metal," you hear the clacking sound of a train, which morphs into a Morse-code synth riff before the song returns to the original angst-ridden motif. Conceptually, Kraftwerk were as prophetic as Orwell; musically, they helped jump-start hip-hop with an electro shock and set the stage for techno, especially after Afrika Bambaataa borrowed the melody of "Trans-Europe Express" for his 1982 smash, "Planet Rock." One of their inheritors, techno king Carl Craig, probably said it best: "They were so stiff they were funky."
(Posted: Oct 22, 2002)
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