Trans-Europe Express was released at a time when punk ruled. Yet this Germanic and somewhat intellectual album that, by the way, shared nothing musically with its contemporaries of the time caught the attention
of just about everyone on it’s release.
Not that Kraftwerk wanted it to! The band operated from a mysterious bubble of equipment and sound that in some way owed more to science and philosophy than mere musical entertainment.
The album is mechanical, yet hypnotic. In the end, what makes Trans-Europe Express stand out is the music, which is more consistently memorable than that of the band’s earlier and equally hypnotic album Autobahn.
The tracks “Hall of Mirrors” and “Showroom Dummies” share a strange recurring image of glass, whilst the album’s lyrics depict reflection.
The title track “Trans-Europe Express” is very similar in it’s concept to “Autobahn” keeping the same mechanical swaying motion, and rhythmically invoking the feeling of an incessant drive of a cross-continent train journey.
Trans-Europe Express is a true example of how minimalism, quantized rhythms, and crafted, catchy melodies could create synth music at it’s best. Quite simply put, without this album, most of the 80s bands would still be looking for inspiration and the evolution of techno and house music may never have happened.
The list of artists that took inspiration from Kraftwerk is endless. One stand out moment is that the title track provided the basis for Afrika Bambaataa’s enormously important dance-floor smash “Planet Rock” by opening up programmed drums and synth rhythms to the new culture of hip-hop.
Check out “Trans-Europe Express” below: