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Kraftwerk - Trans-Europe Express [Aka: Trans-Europa Express] CD (album) cover

TRANS-EUROPE EXPRESS [AKA: TRANS-EUROPA EXPRESS]

Kraftwerk

 

Progressive Electronic

3.89 | 293 ratings

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SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
3 stars From station to station

After the disaster that was Radio-Activity, which consisted of a couple of simple, catchy Synth Pop tunes amongst a multitude of failed sound experiments, Kraftwerk pulled themselves together to produce a worthy follow up to Autobahn. With Trans-Europe Express they build on the formula of Autobahn, but this time it is not about automobiles and motorways but instead about trains and railways.

The whole of the original second vinyl side of the album forms a suite based on the concept of Trans-Europe Express which was a European railway service network that at its maximum extent, in 1974, comprised 45 trains, connecting 130 different cities (thank you Wikipedia for that information). In the title track that opens this suite, they describe (in extremely minimalistic terms) a train journey from Paris to Vienna and then to Düsseldorf (where this album was recorded) where they meet David Bowie and Iggy Pop! As far as I know, this meeting between the group and Bowie actually took place and the line "from station to station" in the lyrics to Trans-Europe Express is said to refer to the Bowie album of that name. Metal On Metal is Kraftwerk's attempt to mimic the actual sound of a train, and this rhythmic sound experiment is surprisingly listenable and forms a nice passage in the suite. While not quite as satisfying as the Autobahn title track, the Trans-Europe Express suite is one of Kraftwerk's most successful and progressive compositions.

The first half of the album is equally satisfying and the almost ten minute Europe Endless is another highlight of Kraftwerk's career. Even this song is thematically connected with the train concept and describes what can be seen out of the windows of the train while travelling through Europe. If you ever go on a train journey from Paris to Vienna, expect to see both elegance and decadence! It would have been interesting to see if they could have incorporated the whole Europe Endless into the suite on the other side of the album, but they do indeed refer back to the opening track at the very end of the album.

The remaining two tracks of side one are however entirely unconnected to the overall concept of the album. This can perhaps be seen as a small distraction, but these are fine songs in their own right. In Hall Of Mirrors we get to hear more vocals than usual and even the lyrics are more elaborate and reflective than we are used to from Kraftwerk. This is another highlight for me. Showroom Dummies is the album's hit song, but as such it is much better than the more famous The Model.

Trans-Europe Express was to my mind the pinnacle of Kraftwerk's creative but uneven career.

SouthSideoftheSky | 3/5 |

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