Kraftwerk, with nothing much else to do, should really be releasing live albums – Minimum Maximum is proof of that. Released in 2005, it contains the blueprint of their live sound for the best part of ten years, between the release of Tour de France Soundtracks in 2003, and the start of their 3D concerts when they began playing entire albums live.
What we don’t particularly have is any record of their earlier live sound, apart from bootlegs from Tribal Gathering in 1997, or Tokyo in 1981. That’s a real shame, especially as they make such a big deal of their live performances these days, but also because Minimum Maximum is so bloody good.
By the way, I only have the English language version to hand, so that’s what we’ll be listening to today. It opens with The Man-Machine, recorded in Warsaw, which is both a welcome inclusion and a great bilingual opener.
This is a pretty comprehensive journey through Kraftwerk‘s back catalogue, although the versions are largely updated, so I wouldn’t necessarily advise newcomers to start here. Second comes Planet of Visions – never otherwise released on an album, this is an updated rendering of their Expo 2000 theme, now incorporating elements from various different versions.
Their long-awaited Tour de France album had not long been released at the time of this tour, so a whole slew of tracks from that album follow – Étape 1, Chrono, Étape 2, Vitamin, and the original Tour de France, all sounding entirely brilliant.
Greatest hits make up the rest of the first disc, with Autobahn turning up from Berlin, largely in the form it took on The Mix. This is followed by The Model and Neon Lights, both recorded in London and receiving unsurprisingly huge receptions from the crowd. Unlike a lot of people, I’d say the latter is one of my least favourite Kraftwerk songs, but here, with a couple of minutes chopped off, it does sound good.
The second disc opens with a rather disturbing voice-over raising awareness of Radioactivity, before launching in earnest into the updated version of the 1975 single, which sounds as huge as ever. The performance of Trans Europe Express and Metal on Metal (and Abzug I suppose too, for those paying attention) from Budapest sounds every bit as amazing as it deserves to as well.
Numbers mixes into a very welcome rendition of Computer World, followed by Home Computer, Pocket Calculator and Dentaku, meaning that the vast majority of the Computer World album is justifiably reproduced here, with the odd exception of Computer Love which is sadly omitted. As always, they all sound good. In a way it’s odd to have them all side-by-side here, but let’s leave the editorial decisions out of this.
Next comes The Robots, taking much the same form it did on The Mix album, and sounding every bit as good. Two more Tour de France Soundtracks follow, with Elektro Kardiogramm and Aérodynamik. Great in their own way, particularly the latter, but do remember they’re here at the cost of Showroom Dummies, which is a large cost to bear.
Finally, proceedings come to a close with Music Non Stop, which as always bangs on absolutely forever. In its four minute single version, it’s good, and in its ten minute live form it’s ethereal and other worldly, but on CD it could perhaps do with a little editing.
So Minimum Maximum does have its downsides – a few omissions and a handful of oddities – but it also includes the vast majority of Kraftwerk‘s most famous hits, as well as a couple of their less well known ones, and frankly they sound amazing. So who’s criticising?