Read This: Kraftwerk – Computer World
Edition number 163 in the burgeoning 33 1/3 book series from Bloomsbury Press on transformational LP’s has certainly settled on a game-changer this time out. Steve Tupai Francis pops the hood on Kraftwerk’s Computer World and delivers a lovingly exhaustive examination of the road to realizing their perfect sonic vision, the reverberations of which are still felt today. With an epic sweep spanning from the Weimar Era through the Fluxus Movement to the band’s emergence in Düsseldorf, the beating heart of the story can be found in the establishment of their studio Kling Klang, which would become the outfit’s primary instrument, as crucial to their sound as Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Black Ark.
Artfully balancing key elements from the band’s previous work while shedding light on the various tools that helped create Computer World, (shoutout Speak and Spell!), Francis does an exceptional job of managing an avalanche of information, and keeping it moving and relevant, while also shining a light on the Kraftwerk team behind the scenes that kept the Man Machine running. Released into a post-punk world at the dawn of the era of home computing, Computer World stands as both an ode to the joy of discovery, and a stark warning for our future, with an added side bonus of having a seismic influence on Hip-Hop, Synth Pop, House, and Techno, just for starters. And all in 35 minutes.
The meat of any 33 1/3 is the analysis of the LP in question, and Francis passes this with flying colors, keeping an eye on the line between man and machine, noting the human imperfections that keep us listeners grounded, and providing a key to the LP’s continued relevancy, both lyrically and musically, while doing justice to the legacy of both Kraftwerk and Bloomsbury. Having concluded the US run of their 3D Tour, Kraftwerk will pop up next at some European summer festivals. Enjoy our picks below, including an amazing Italian language version of “Pocket Calculator” from 1981, a performance of “Numbers” from a Japanese Computer World date, and full-show audios from the Computer World Tour at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in July ‘81, and the 3D Tour from the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, SF just last week.