Trans-Europe Express - Kraftwerk (1977)
"Leave Paris in the morning, T-E-E"
Best Song: Metal on Metal (Or, you could simply say the entire "T-E-E" suite.)
Worst Song: The Hall of Mirrors
The funny thing, though, is that they never had any major hit singles. Sure, they were sampled a billion times, but they themselves never had a much of a hit, particularly in the 70s. "Why is that?", I'm sure you're wondering. Well, it certainly isn't that the songs weren't catchy. Most of Kraftwerk's songs are incredibly catchy. BUT, (here's the catch) they're all very looooooong and very repetitive. VERY repetitive. They all start out one way and slowly, SLOWLY morph into something completely different. But sometimes that takes 9 minutes! So yes, if there's any reason that Kraftwerk's hard to listen to, that's it.
Another problem that many people have with Kraftwerk, and particularly this album, is that their music is....well....less than happy. Songs like "The Hall of Mirrors" and the title track are very cold and metallic, much like the image the band was portraying at that time. Tracks like these are not very fun to listen to. But, even though they may not be "fun" per se, they are bloody fantastic.
Let's start with the album opener. "Europe Endless" is a great, catchy techno song. Heck, I wouldn't even hesitate to call it disco. But still, most disco doesn't go 2 minutes without anyone singing, and most disco songs don't go beyond a 9 minute length. But still, this is a perfect intro to the album, and one of my favorite songs on it. After this, we have the aforementioned "Hall of Mirrors', which is a touch boring. I mean, sure, the overall mood created by it is really, really cool, but unlike "Europe Endless", which was fun and repetitive, this one's depressing and repetitive. One of the weak spots of the album, in my opinion. Following "Mirrors", we have "Showroom Dummies". Now, THIS one could have been a killer single if shortened a bit. Very catchy, very danceable ~ yep, if any song on this album had been successful on radio, this is it. The lyrics are about fame, and how celebrities are treated like, well, showroom dummies.
And now, my friends, we come to the centerpiece of the album: the "Trans-Europe Express" suite. It consists of three songs ~ "Trans-Europe Express", "Metal on Metal", and "Abzug" ~ that segue directly into each other. They all share the same major theme and beat, but each version is slightly different. For example, "Metal on Metal" features added percussion and train noises, to give the sound of the eponymous Trans-Europe Express moving down the track. It's the shortest of the three, and probably my favorite. The title track itself is the longest of the trilogy, and contains the most lyrics, which are about, you guessed it, that wondrous train. The lyrics also cover the band's meeting with Iggy Pop and David Bowie. In this track, the synth line that continues through the whole suite is introduced, to awesome effect. (Bonus fact: this synth line was sampled in Afrika Bambaataa's major hit single "Planet Rock") After those two, we come to "Abzug", which simply sounds like a continuation of the title track. One of thing of note on the track, though, is the fact that for whatever reason, the chanting of "Trans-Europe Express" sounds more human, and less machine-like for some reason. Overall, the suite is pretty great, and is all-together my favorite "track" on the album.
After that big slice of awesome, we come to "Franz Schubert", an absolutely gorgeous instrumental ode to an absolutely brilliant composer that features a sample of the synth line from "Europe Endless". It's very slow and very relaxing. In other words, the perfect thing to come after the stressful "T-E-E" suite. "Franz" then morphs into "Endless Endless", a short reprise of the opening track that slowly fades into silence.
So, my friends, that brings us to the end of Trans-Europe Express. If you have any interest at all in electronic music, I highly suggest you pick it up. It can be a little tough to get into, but I assure you, it's worth it.