‘The Beatles and Kraftwerk’ may not have the ring of ‘The Beatles and the Stones’, but, nonetheless, these are the two most important bands in music history. Without Kraftwerk’s pioneering ‘robot pop’ there would have been no New Order, acid house, Prodigy, electroclash, grime or Daft Punk. Without The Rolling Stones there would have been no Black Crowes or Kasabian. And fewer posh, drug-addled poseurs in rock. Case closed.
If you didn’t already know this, and many don’t, then NME wouldn’t recommend that you start your Kraftwerk education here. First, buy their classic 1970s analogue albums, ‘Autobahn’, ‘Trans-Europe Express’ and ‘The Man-Machine’. Although, straight after that, you should get ‘Minimum-Maximum’. Four middle-aged blokes playing laptops hardly sounds like a laugh riot but this, in an admittedly weak field, is one of the best live albums that NME has ever heard. Far from their shows being sterile affairs, Kraftwerk inspire a devotion that gives these two discs the atmosphere of exhilarating raves. The crowd noise during ‘Tour De France Etape 1’ brings things full circle; the fans roaring on the godfathers of house, adapting a style they didn’t know they had invented.
Elsewhere, familiar tracks are radically overhauled. ‘Numbers’ and ‘The Robots’ ripple with digital muscle – both thoroughly modern dancefloor monsters. ‘Radio-Activity’, once spindly, is now monumental. Tracks like ‘Aero Dynamik’ and the beautiful ‘Elektro Kardiogramm’, from 2003’s ‘Tour De France Soundtracks’ may not have the revolutionary credentials of ‘Trans-Europe Express’, but certainly have the precision and dynamism to match Kraftwerk’s heirs, from Plastikman to Cylob.