Kraftwerk : doing the maximum with the minimum

Kraftwerk : doing the maximum with the minimum

Why don’t I tell you why I love Kraftwerk? Well, it’s simple: my dad has good taste, and when I was a kid, on Wednesday afternoons, when I was listening to 45 rpm records in secret from my parents, I’d come across a few discs by a band with an unpronounceable name, but whose music fascinated my childhood ears: Kraftwerk.

I kept this fascination alive, buying a few of the band’s CDs myself, and seeing their show at the recent Eurockéennes festival in Belfort. A memorable show. On my return, I immersed myself in reading former drummer Wolfgang Flür’s book “J’étais un robot”. And then, astonishment: Kraftwerk is not just a group of people passionate about machines and electronic music, and driven by a passion to create. The Düsseldorf band has had its share of squabbles, and Wolfgang Flür, who was sued by his former comrades, concludes his book with a peremptory sentence: “Instead of composing and playing music, the Kraftwerks today prefer to sue.

Kraftwerk is now a legendary band, but they haven’t released a new album since “Electric Cafe” in 1986. 2003’s “Tour de France” (see our article) was no more than a remix of the 1983 tracks. So this double live album gives the impression of hearing the same thing as their show (but without the images to enhance it), in the same order, interspersed with applause, but without much risk-taking: improvisations are not part of the cybernetic band’s brief. This double album, which doesn’t disguise the fact that for almost twenty years Kraftwerk hasn’t been able to keep up with the leading ranks of innovative bands, but includes all the quartet’s hits, is ultimately just a best of for neophytes, who will discover the best of the band in a short space of time. Whether the tracks were recorded live or in the studio makes little difference to their sound. But releasing a double live album is less of a “stain” than releasing a compilation.

A minimum artistic objective from a band at the height of their legend, but who unfortunately can’t reinvent themselves, and seem condemned to play their old hits for eternity.


Jean-Marc Grosdemouge