Kraftwerk - The Man-Machine - Classic Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Kraftwerk - The Man-Machine

by Rob Taylor Rating:9 Release Date:1978-05-19
Kraftwerk - The Man Machine
Kraftwerk - The Man Machine

The Man-Machine was Kraftwerk’s definitive synth-pop moment. Though its exterior gives the impression of minimalist precision, it contains many layers of obsessive detail; and although detractors will say that the pointillist execution calculates a cool and aloof environment, in fact it has an organic warmth unsurpassed by its earliest descendants, like The Human League for instance, who emphasised the austere, and never completely shrugged off the impression of kitsch.

Writing this review, I’ve had to contemplate why it is that I deplore much of what is synth-pop over the last decade or so, and yet hold The Man Machine so dear to my heart. I think it’s the fact that the music is not merely a clever contortion of pop music, but that its emblematic of a time when technology was just beginning to take an important role in our daily lives. Each of the tracks examines separate facets of that incumbent existence.

The music of ‘Neon Lights’ is a gorgeous evocation of the pathways of light which illuminate the modern industrial city. Ralf Hutter’s crooning vocal suggest a real affection for this distorted representation of the dull urban landscape, much akin to the Wenders representation of Berlin in Wings of Desire.

‘The Model’ lyrics suggest a victory of pragmatism over ethics, as the model compromises herself and her principles to get to the top in a consumerist world. The Russian lyric in ‘The Robots’ literally means I am your servant / I am your worker, possibly referring to the fact that under-skilled workers could be superseded by mechanical beings. Those that simply and utterly comply with the demands of a corporate world. In fact, the front cover art is a replication of Russian poster art, not intended to be fascistic as suggested by some, but an expression of modernity, though the blank heroism depicted clearly doesn’t communicate a positive message of individuality.

Quite simply though, Kraftwerk, for all these higher aims, produced an album of pop catchiness and elegant symphony which is fun and engaging. More so than predecessor Trans-Europe Express, another classic, but more detached in execution. The Man-Machine manages a poignancy reflecting the well measured balance of music and humanity. 

Comments (3)

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Great review, Rob. I struggle with modern synth-pop just as you articulated.

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Excellent review, Rob!

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Cheers Jon. I’m enjoying the 3D Catalogue box set folly of Ralf Hutter. Whether it is Kraftwerk reimagined one too many times is a controversy lost on me. The live reworkings are fantastic.

Comment was last edited about 4 years ago by Rob Taylor Rob Taylor
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