Kraftwerk
Trans-Europe Express


5.0
classic

Review

by Major Tom CONTRIBUTOR (139 Reviews)
March 28th, 2012 | 24 replies


Release Date: 1977 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The great journey forward.

Although 1974’s Autobahn was the moment when the critics and hipsters started taking true notice of the German pioneers’ undeniable innovation in modern music, its second follow-up album, Trans-Europe Express, was when their artistic potential became matched with a genuine level of commercial accessibility. Still not the most accessible record in Krafty’s bag (see: The Man-Machine (1978) and Computer World (1981)), TEE was perhaps their first, nonetheless, not counting the brutally edited single mix of ‘Autobahn’. Either way it makes for a slightly less compelling, but arguably more instantly exciting, entry point to the vital groups’ work.

Beginning with a sprightly, repetitive synth line before a gurgled, steady dance beat kicks in behind sparse, speech-like vocal lines (mainly uttering the song title), ‘Europe Endless’ opens the disc on an accomplished, bright and classic note. The set takes a turn for the dark, with the more introverted and cynical offerings of its next two tracks – ‘The Hall of Mirrors’ and ‘Showroom Dummies’. The former-most starts with a jarring, blippy keyboard effect, which fluctuates and reoccurs throughout, behind a slightly eerie, horror-like beat and quietly melodic vocals, echoing the hook “even the greatest stars/discover themselves in the looking glass” - the section between “stars” and “in the looking glass” evolving into evermore cynical phrases each time the chorus returns. ‘Showroom Dummies’ is more of the same doomy dance goodness – slightly haunted synth flickers and pessimistic lyrics.

Trans-Europe Express truly comes into its own upon side two, however, where its title-track blows electronic music into a whole new field of influential. While ‘Autobahn’ beats the aforementioned in age, ‘Trans-Europe Express’ fights back with a much more commercial and catchy slant. Its choppy rhythm evokes the moving parts of a railway train, while synths creep in - that iconic rising hook which drags out the highest note before collapsing; not to mention the second hooky electro effect – a gargled, nervy high-pitched keyboard whirl – one which found its way onto Afrika Bambaataa’s pioneering, 1982 hip-hop single ‘Planet Rock’, a single which influenced an entire new genre through its own influence of another.

The remainder of the cuts blend in with the title-track’s melody, presenting slight differences that sound more like progressed versions of the same song rather than separate entities, ultimately closing a disc which took the promise of earlier innovations to a new accessible peak, and influenced perhaps just as much because of it. As unlikely as the idea of a bunch of Kraut-rocking Germans - in nerd-chic suits, with their thick glasses and rigid, motoric beats - influencing the hip-hop, dance and synth-pop of the following decade is, the fact still remains: that’s what actually happened. You can’t argue with the truth much in the same way you can’t argue with the sheer amount of influence this record – not to mention its 1977 release date, i.e. at punk’s peak – had on what came next in music. Post-punk, new wave, hip hop, techno, industrial… – they all owe a debt to this seminal work and so does any person who calls himself a serious fan of any of the aforementioned genres. That likely means you in other words, so get your train ticket and take a journey to where it all came to life.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
March 28th 2012


6451 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Man Machine > this, but this is also great!
They're fantastic live, such a terrific show.

Digging: Thom Yorke - Tomorrow's Modern Boxes

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
March 28th 2012


6451 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Also, the German version of Showroom Dummies is creepy as hell

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
March 28th 2012


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Damn, that's quite a low score from what seems like a Kraftwerk fan.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
March 28th 2012


31215 Comments


Awesome work

Digging: LV and Joshua Idehen - Islands

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
March 28th 2012


6451 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Well, I'm not really all that of a fan, actually. It's with Kraftwerk the same as with the Beatles: I absolutely love a lot of individual songs, but there isn't really a full album of them I truly love (if that makes sense...)

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
March 28th 2012


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Dankeschön, Dev ; )

I get you clercqie, i mainly enjoy listening to Kraftwerk from a critical mind - i enjoy laying back and taking in how damn far ahead of the curve they were.

ThroneOfAgony
March 28th 2012


3485 Comments


Great job. Their stuff is great

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
March 28th 2012


6451 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

'twas magic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUWqi7B43bs

"i enjoy laying back and taking in how damn far ahead of the curve they were."
So very true, they still sound far better than most electronic music that's made nowadays

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
March 28th 2012


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks, Throne.

Cool, clercqie - very stylish performance. It's not easy to jazz up the performance of electronic music - dudes stood behind keyboards doesn't have the same impact as someone flailing about the stage with a guitar strapped on, so it's impressive when an electro group can sustain live attention.

ThroneOfAgony
March 28th 2012


3485 Comments


I liked Computer World more

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
March 28th 2012


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

RiffOClock - Hell to the yes.

Autobahn is the most revolutionary, but this is the most enjoyable i think.

CaptainDooRight
March 28th 2012


29413 Comments


cool I'll have to check this out

Digging: Blut Aus Nord - Memoria Vetusta III ? Saturnian Poetry

DoubtGin
March 28th 2012


6752 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Die Mensch-Maschine is better, but this rules too

DoubtGin
March 28th 2012


6752 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yes it is

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
March 28th 2012


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

It's not, i read so on wikipedia, which is ALL TRUTH ha.

StrangerofSorts
Contributing Reviewer
March 28th 2012


2714 Comments


Nice review, mate.

There's a documentary on youtube that covers the origins of krautrock. There's a big chunk of it on Karftwerk (and also ambient music but I'm probably the only one who cares too much about that) if you want to check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHUwkYkn_kA

I don't know, a bit random, but I found it useful for learning the context of Kraftwerk/ Tangerine Dream/ Cluster etc.

random
March 28th 2012


2262 Comments


Title track rules.

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
March 28th 2012


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks SoS. I love that kinda thing, so i'll check it out when i get a chance.

DreamingWithTheDead
February 12th 2014


207 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

'The Hall of Mirrors' for me is their best song. I find it genuinely haunting.

ShitsofRain
April 14th 2014


5899 Comments


title track is so gangsta

Digging: Anthony Shakir - Frictionalism 1994-2009



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