Artist of the Week – Kraftwerk

I always find myself apologising for the hyperbole in these archive pieces, and honestly there are plenty this week too, but it’s not undeserved. Unusually, due to their lack of new releases, except for the last line, this one is still current too!

Kraftwerk are one of the most influential and important bands that have ever existed, without a doubt. Although they never made any particular impact on the charts, with the exception of The Model, they have come to be renowned for inventing practically every form of electronic music in existence, and they are now guaranteed sell-out tours and sizable hits the world over.

It all began way back in the late 1960s when Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider-Esleben, then music students in Düsseldorf, joined with two others to form The Organisation. The debut album Tone Float was released in Germany in 1969.

Following this, Ralf and Florian went off to form Kraftwerk, which translates into English as “power station”. The first three albums, now known as Kraftwerk 12, and Ralf and Florian are little known but have come to be widely referenced in the field of experimental music, being commonly cited as influences by the likes of David Bowie and Orbital.

Their fourth album as Kraftwerk introduced two new members: Karl Bartos and Wolfgang Flür, and became a worldwide hit and instant classic. 1975’s Autobahn has been universally praised as one of the most important albums ever recorded.

Over the next ten years, they would go on to record classic after classic, with Radio-Activity in 1976, Trans-Europe Express in 1977, the classic The Man-Machine in 1978, and Computer World  in 1981. It was at the start of the 1980s that they reached their chart pinnacle with The Model hitting number one in the UK.

In 1983, they recorded the cycling anthem Tour de France, but it was shortly after this that Hütter suffered a serious cycling accident, putting the recording of their next album way behind schedule. Eventually released in 1986, Electric Café just about scraped into the bottom end of the UK Charts.

In 1991, they returned, remixing many of their classic albums for the fantastic The Mix, and then they spend most of the 1990s locked away in their studio, occasionally resurfacing with rumours of reissues or a new album, and towards the end of the 1990s, a couple of tours as well.

Eventually, they reappeared last year [2003] with Tour de France Soundtracks. Widely criticised for being “more of the same”, it still managed a respectable UK chart placing, and is a good album nonetheless.

Finally, rumours still abound of a series of reissues of the original albums. Promos are now available, but there is still no news when they will appear in the shops.

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