I’ve been on a massive Kraftwerk kick lately, so, for today’s article, I thought I’d share some of their tracks that I think are great for someone who’s not too familiar with the group to get their feet wet with. So, let’s dive right in!
“Ruckzuck” (From Kraftwerk, 1970)
Kraftwerk are often pictured as an experimental electronic group, and while that’s certainly true, their music was radically different in their early days. The term I usually see associated with early Kraftwerk, as well as with Neu! and Can, is “krautrock,” and that genre usually features jazz-influenced rock arrangements with avant-garde touches thrown in. And that’s exactly what their first few albums have, and I think “Ruckzuck” is a great example of the band’s early style. This song features a really hectic buildup and some cool flute touches.
“Kling Klang” (From Kraftwerk 2, 1972)
Another krautrock tune, this song clocks in at just over 17 minutes, and the song’s different sections are all musically interesting enough to make the song seem fresh with each additional listen. Whereas “Ruckzuck” had a really hectic vibe to it, “Kling Klang” is a lot more relaxed and tranquil, with some beautiful piano and flute sections.
“Ananas Symphonie” (From Ralf Und Florian, 1973)
This song’s title translates to “Pineapple Symphony,” and if that weren’t funny enough, just take a look at this album’s original cover. So wacky.
Anyway, this is another chilled-out krautrock instrumental – this time featuring some island-inspired guitar and rhythm sections. This song has a nice psychedelic vibe to it, so much so that the YouTube video for it has one of the greatest comments I’ve ever seen.
“Autobahn” (From Autobahn, 1974)
Now we’re getting into the super magnificent stuff. This song, at just under 23 minutes in length, perfectly captures the vibe of driving down the road. The song is hella catchy and the instrumentals are brilliant, even if the voice box effects are a tad bit dated. This song is the perfect transition from their early krautrock style to the later experimental electronic sound they’d become known for. This song was also one of their first hits, reaching #25 on the Billboard 100. If you’re put off by the weird krautrock stuff, then I recommend this song for a starting point. Trust me, you definitely won’t regret it.
“Morgenspaziergang” (From Autobahn, 1974)
I told myself I was only gonna include one track from each album, but I just had to throw this one in as well. The title translates to “Morning Walk,” and that’s exactly what this song feels like. Florian Schneider’s flute playing is absolutely breathtaking on this song, and the contrast between the theme of nature with the mechanical effects in the beginning is a really cool touch.
“Ohm Sweet Ohm” (From Radio-Activity, 1975)
Here’s another song that just builds and builds. The song is built off of a very simple melody, but hearing the tempo change after each cycle just adds so much to this song’s atmosphere. It starts off melancholic and ends triumphantly – how many songs can say that just by repeating the same basic melody over and over? This is vintage Kraftwerk: minimalistic, yet evoking so many emotions and crafting melodies that never get out of your head.
Trans-Europe Express (1977)
Uh…yeah…the whole album. I know this is a cop-out, but Trans-Europe Express is the quintessential Kraftwerk album. So many amazing songs are on this album, but my favorites are the title track, “Europe Endless,” and “Franz Schubert.” This record is the perfect blend of their experimental style with perfect pop songwriting, and the results are some of the sweetest melodies and most beautiful songs ever recorded. Just listen to “Franz Schubert,” my all-time favorite Kraftwerk track:
“The Model” (from The Man Machine, 1978)
Their most straightforward pop song, this is one that any fan of catchy pop tunes should enjoy. Not much else to say, but this is definitely one of their finest tracks.
“Computer World” (from Computer World, 1981)
Another damnably catchy song. What else is new with Kraftwerk?
I really hope you all give some of these songs a shot. I’ve never come across a band with so much creativity who can convey so much with such simple arrangements, but Kraftwerk are that rare blend of ingenuity and minimalism, catchiness and brilliance, and just plain coolness. Did I mention that Kraftwerk even programmed their own instruments/electronic setups early on in their career? Talk about DIY. Anyway, I know I’m just gushing at this point, but thank you all so much for reading. If you gave any of these tunes a shot, let me know in the comments what you thought of them! See you all next week, and make sure you check out our weekly playlist.