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Kraftwerk - The Man-Machine [Aka: Die Mensch-Maschine] CD (album) cover




Progressive Electronic

3.95 | 345 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
2 stars They became robots here!

I prefer to divide Kraftwerk's output from Autobahn to Electric Café into two distinct halves (I have not heard the pre-Autobahn albums). The first era, which we might call the progressive era, would consist of the three albums Autobahn, Radio-Activity and Trans-Europe Express, while the second era, which we might call the Synth Pop era, would consist of the present album, Computer World and Electric Café. Almost needless to say, the most interesting of the two eras is the former. Though I find Radio-Activity almost unlistenable, I would say that Autobahn and Trans-Europe Express are the finest moments in the group's career.

On Man Machine, Kraftwerk streamlined their approach and rooted out all non-electronic and non-mechanical aspects of their sound. This was probably the logical development of what they had been doing up to that point, but for me they took it too far here. The album does still have a very vague concept based around the relation between human and robot, but there is not much to hook onto to in order to really make any sense of the music and not all of the tracks fit into its overall theme. Some songs still have a very slight "progressive" nature perhaps, but there are no "epics" or "suites" anymore. The music of Kraftwerk was always experimental in some sense, but here the main "experiment" seems to have been to further "rationalize" their already minimalistic sound and streamline what they had already been doing on previous albums. This is what they do here rather than create something radically new.

The signs had been there since Radio-Activity, but it was with The Model that Kraftwerk "finally" created Synth Pop. Short, catchy, simple and conventional in structure (but not in sound), this electronic ditty gave them their biggest hit and probably inspired many Synth Pop groups of the early 80's to write similarly catchy electronic tunes. Neon Lights is similarly catchy, but a bit more elaborated. The Robots would be a defining number for the group as well and they even adopted the robotic image suggested by the song, having robots appear on stage instead of the members themselves when they "performed" their music live!

Many would probably hold the present album up as Kraftwerk's finest moment, and even though I agree that this was a defining and very important album for them, for me this was the start of their downfall. I do enjoy the next album, Computer World, more than the present one though as that one has a bit more energy (plus I remember it well from my childhood). Man Machine feels a bit "sleepy" and even quite dull at times, and with only electronic sounds, a less elaborate concept and no real substance in the material, this falls rather flat for me. It is indeed "robotic" as opposed to "human"; too much so for my taste, I suppose.

I can really only recommend this one to fans of the group and the genre

SouthSideoftheSky | 2/5 |


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