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Kraftwerkweek is very nearly over. As a parting shot we thought it would be fitting to pay tribute to Kraftwerk's massive influence on today's music scene to put together a playlist of tracks that owe a significant debt to Düsseldorf's Beach Boys/techno's Robert Johnsons/the electric Beatles/the techno Teutons. (OK, I made that last one up.)
A playlist built to these specifications could conceivably be endless. For that reason we've shrunk an obscenely long list down to 21 songs that probably wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them. It's utterly partial and capricious, so please post your own additional playlists below and let's get robotic. Musique non-stop.
1.David Bowie - 'V2 Schneider'
The story goes that Bowie's first meeting with Kraftwerk took place in his Mercedes when he was playing 'Autobahn'. At some point in 1977, Bowie and Iggy Pop gave Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider a standing ovation when they walked into a club on the Champs Élysées. Shortly after they name-checked him on 'Trans-Europe Express' Bowie recorded this song, named for Florian.
2.Iggy Pop - 'Nightclubbing'
The same year, with both artists living in Berlin, Bowie produceed Iggy Pop's The Idiot. This is Kraftwerk, pissed.
3.The Human League - 'Being Boiled'
The Human League's debut single, released in June 1978, is a fierce piece of early British electronic pop that marries a glam rhythm to Kraftwerk-style beat programming. The things being boiled are silkworms, apparently.
4.Gary Numan - 'Are 'Friends' Electric?'
Numan was a rocker before chancing upon a Minimoog synthesiser - the same one that had prompted the stellar development between Kraftwerk's Ralf and Florian and Autobahn - at a studio one day. As much influenced by Bowie as by Kraftwerk, Numan's synth-heavy sound - and thousands of adoring Numanoids - heralded the burgeoning of the British synthpop era.
5.Throbbing Gristle - 'Hot on the Heels of Love'
Sublime early industrial from Genesis P-Orridge's uncompromising outfit. Cosey Fanni Tutti's breathy lyrics would later be emulated on roughly 1.5 million dodgy trance records.
6.Associates - 'White Car in Germany'
Scotland's Associates would later go on to enjoy chart success, but 1981's Fourth Drawer Down represents their artistic peak. I'm a little puzzled by guitarist Alan Rankine's suggestion that Billy Mackenzie's vibrato delivery was somehow influenced by Kraftwerk, but the windswept electronic landscapes they conjure most ceratainly are (via Low-era Bowie). The edited female vocal sample is pure house music, albeit five years early.
7.Trio - 'Da Da Da'
German New Wave band Trio took Kraftwerk's policy of simple, uncluttered melody and ran with it, producing this gorgeous piece of grinning android pop. Its full title, if you want to be a pedant about it, is 'Da da da, ich lieb dich nicht du liebst mich nicht aha aha aha'. Aha.
Video: Trio: 'Da Da Da'
8.Thomas Dolby - 'Flying North'
There's something undeniably Kraftwerkian about synthpop prince Thomas Dolby's evocations of airport bars and jet travel. Read DiS's Joseph Stannard on the subject here
9.DAF - 'Der Mussolini'
Minimalist fascist-dictator-and-Jesus-referencing pop from pop nihilists and eager sado-masochists Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft.
10.Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force - 'Planet Rock'
The big one: Bambaataa's Arthur Baker-produced bomb incorporates the melody from 'Trans-Europe Express' and the rhythm track from 'Numbers'. Guten Tag, hip-hop and electro!
11.Cybotron - 'Clear'
A year after 'Planet Rock' Juan Atkins, who introduced Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson to Kraftwerk, produced this austere piece of electro that wasn't quite electro. Guten Tag, techno!
12.New Order - 'Blue Monday'
The biggest-selling 12-inch of all time, 'Blue Monday' made Kraftwerk's influence on both Joy Division and New Order official by sampling 'Uranium' from 1975's Radio-Activity' (it comes in at 1:36).
13.Cabaret Voltaire - 'Just Fascination'
Cabaret Voltaire were always a little too abstract to have a hit, but following their exposure to New York clubbing in the early Eighties they polished their melodies, pushed Stephen Malinder's vocals to the front of the mix and, briefly, became a top-40 band. Co-founder Richard H. Kirk would go on to produce superb bleep techno as Sweet Exorcist and some sublime ambient music under his own name.
14.Siouxsie & the Banshees - 'Hall of Mirrors'
Siouxsie & the Banshees’ 1987 covers album Through the Looking Glass included this version of ‘Hall of Mirrors’ from Trans-Europe Express. Distinctly less creepy than the original, it’s nevertheless got a certain dead-eyed charm about it.
Video: Siouxie & the Banshees: 'Hall of Mirrors'
15.Jay-Z - 'Always Be My Sunshine'
The Roc-A-Fella boss builds a stunning track around a sample from The Man-Machine, then Babyface makes it all go a bit limp with his 'sensitive man' vocal. Then Foxy Brown swears a bit. Such is life.
16.The Normal - 'Warm Leatherette'
Krautrock fan Daniel Miller's viciously modulated, J.G. Ballard-inspired electro-punk track was an indie hit in 1978. He used the money it generated to set up Mute Records which, now part of EMI, has just released the remastered Kraftwerk catalogue. How's that for circularity?
17.Depeche Mode - 'Everything Counts'
Of all the synthpop bands of the early-Eighties Depeche Mode were, at this stage of their career, at least, the closest to Kraftwerk in terms of striving to create pure electronic pop.
18.Señor Coconut - 'The Man Machine'
Titanically productive German electronic artist Uwe Schmidt's album El Baile Aleman reinterprets Kraftwerk songs in cumbia and cha cha cha styles. Remarkably, all the music is assembled from samples taken from original Fifties Latin records. Best of all, Kraftwerk reportedly caned the album when it came out in 2000, with co-founder Florian Schneider liking it so much that he followed the band on tour.
18.Daft Punk - 'Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger'
Pure robot pop from dance music producers who probably got their idea for robot alter-egos from...um...
19.Carl Craig - 'Landcruising'
Highly evolved, chrome-plated Detroit techno from Carl Craig's 1995 album of the same name, conceived as a homage to Kraftwerk's Authobahn.
20.Visage - 'Fade to Grey'
Capturing the New Romantic zeitgeist with aplomb, 'Fade to Grey' remains a haunting piece of ethereal, electrified dream-pop.
21.David Bowie - 'A New Career in a New Town'
We finish where we started: with David Bowie in Germany in 1977. 'A New Career in a New Town' sets the scene for the second side of Low, a phenomenal sequence of music which is deeply indebted to krautrock, and to Kraftwerk in particular. And it's so good that there's no point putting anything on after it.
Click here for this week's Kraftwerk-themed Spotifriday playlist, or post your playlists below.
- Kraftwerk perform Radio-Activity at Tate Modern, Camberwell, Thu 07 Feb
- In Photos: Way Out West 2012 @ Gothenburg, Sweden
- Spotifriday #20 Side II: Kraftwerkweek as a playlist
- Spotifriday #20 Side I: This Week on DiS as a playlist
- Kraftwerk - Tour de France: Remastered
- Kraftwerk - The Mix: Remastered
- Kraftwerk - Techno Pop: Remastered
- Kraftwerk - Computer World: Remastered