No Good Bands – Kraftwerk

A good rule of thumb is, if people tell you that a band created a “sonic blueprint”, it means the band is annoying to listen to. Also annoying to listen to? Some guy at your New Year’s party telling you he’d rather be listening to Kraftwerk just when you put on Don’t You Want Me by the Human League. Because Kraftwerk were “such an inspiration to synthesizer bands”. Yeah, Klosterman Glasses, I get it. But I want “Don’t! You! Want! Me bayyy-bee! Don’t you want me! Oh! Oh oh oh!” right now, not “We start to move and break the glass, we are showroom dummies”. Is that fair, Klosterman Glasses? Can I have that this New Year’s eve?

Buying a Kraftwerk record is like buying a Model-T Ford because you’re only interested in originality. Ultimately, that is what rewarding capital-O originality is. Odds are, you’d be less interested in using a Nickel-iron battery Edison built himself than one Duracell made this year. So, why do we reward bands for inspiring other bands? There’s giving credit where credit is due, and there’s feeling like a creative fraud every time you arrive at the US border because “Columbus did it first” (he didn’t, but that’s not going to help your Kraftwerk argument, either). So, while I’m glad Afrika Bambaataa found that Kraftwerk record, I’m 2000% more likely to listen to Planet Rock than Trans-Europe Express. Ugh. You couldn’t pay me to listen to Trans-Europe Express. You COULD pay me to listen to Planet Rock, which is also a lot like getting excited about old-fashioned things like penny farthings and building your own tools and putting the young ‘uns in the wagons and heading west from Salem to Colorado territory to strike it rich as a gold prospector.

Afrika Bambaataa
Pic via Zicodico – Click to open in new tab

I’ll give you this: I’ll buy records from anybody dressed like that. Which happens to be another stone I’ll cast Kraftwerk’s way: they look as boring as they sound. They’re literally the musical equivalent of business casual. Neat that some computer company figured it out, but here and now, it’s not wearing all of a suit and looking at spreadsheets. Here, just take a look, and see if you can tell people-Kraftwerk from robots-Kraftwerk (it doesn’t matter, both are zzzzzHUH? Where am- oh, I fell asleep because I’m writing about Kraftwerk):

kraftwerk robots
Pic via Urânia – José Galisi Filho – Click to open in new tab

What’s really criminal about Kraftwerk are their idiotic songs. Their lyrics play out like episodes of Space, 1999 written by a pair of 12 year olds who drank Pepsi all night to stay up for SNL. Only now it’s 3am, they still can’t sleep, and they’re watching God-only-knows-what trying to figure out not-gay ways to make out with each other.

Here’s how writing a Kraftwerk song works. Turn on a computer. There. There’s your music. Then to write the lyrics, repeat the title over and over again; occasionally insert a plot twist like having the showroom dummies come to life and break some glass.

Oh, are we functioning automatic and dancing mechanic? POUR ME ANOTHER PINT GLASS OF TEQUILA, THEN! I’m not even sure how you tell a microphone that your battery is charged. Doesn’t that feel dishonest? Saying it to the microphone, I mean. That lonely little guy can probably tell you don’t mean it. But if saying “We are day robots” isn’t bird-brained enough for you, you may want to try on The Model. This is a song about a model. That’s it. Arty and cerebral, right? Might as well be a Kiss song. In fact, I’ll A-B them with the lyrics for Strutter by Kiss, which I think might be the exact same song (bold is Kraftwerk, italics is Kiss).

She’s a model and she’s looking good
I’d like to take her home that’s understood
She plays hard to get, she smiles from time to time
It only takes a camera to change her mind

I know a thing or two about her
I know she’ll only make you cry
She’ll let you walk the street beside her
But when she wants she’ll pass you by
Everybody says she’s lookin’ good
And the lady knows it’s understood
Strutter

She’s going out tonight, loves drinking just champagne
And she has been checking nearly all the men
She’s playing her game and you can hear them say
She is looking good, for beauty we will pay

She wears her satins like a lady
She gets her way just like a child
You take her home and she says “Maybe, baby”
She brings you down, drives you wild
Everybody says she’s lookin’ good
And the lady knows it’s understood
Strutter

She’s posing for consumer products now and then
For every camera she gives the best she can
I saw her on the cover of a magazine
Now she’s a big success, I want to meet her again

I know a thing or two about her
I know she’ll only make you cry
She’ll let you walk the street beside her
But when she wants, she’ll pass you by
Everybody says she’s lookin’ good
And the lady knows it’s understood
Strutter
Strutter
Strutter

I can’t be alone in thinking Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons come off like the smart ones here. They don’t even waste the first verse explaining what a model is, for the members of the audience who were confused as to why the lyrics to the song weren’t about 1:72 Messerschmitts from Revell and Testor’s. Though now that I say that, Kraftwerk’s audience is probably 90% guys building model planes. Which explains the popularity of a tune like Autobahn, which is basically a Raffi song for your car: Kraftwerk sing, “Wir fahr’n fahr’n fahr’n auf der Autobahn”, which translates as “We are driving on the Autobahn”. A rock critic will tell you this rewrote the rock rulebook. Presumably, because it added a new dimension of stupid nobody had thought of yet. They had makeup, and drugs, but nobody had thought of just having your car’s speedometer sing a song about where it thought it happened to be at the time. Here’s the unlikely songwriter of that monster hit.

speedometer
Pic via Sparkfun – Click to open in new ta

I won’t even link it, it’s such a bad song. But it’s nothing compared to Computer World, which consists of a Speak and Spell saying “word, word, a related word” over and over and then a nice lady robot says “Computer world”. Oh, I get it, Kraftwerk. You’re saying we’re in it. We’re in the future. But instead of Afrikaa Bambaataa wearing impossible sunglasses or robots driving my car, it’s a sick apocalypse where it’s not safe to leave your house because this might happen, and it’s Kraftwerk’s fault:

BEP

About Matt Collins

Matt Collins is a musician (Ninja High School), cartoonist (Sexy), jock (Manhunt), and comedian (Matt Collins) in Toronto, Ontario. Please buy more Matt Collins. [Other Posts By Matt]