Kraftwerk, Electric Cafe

Barry Walters

By Barry Walters

on 04.10.11 in Reviews

Electric Cafe


Whereas 1981′s Computer World coincided with a huge escalation in the new wave, R&B, post-disco and hip-hop worlds for synthesized grooves, late 1986′s Electric Cafe arrived when much of popular music was already electronic. The German quartet started working on Computer World‘s successor in 1982, but when key member Ralf Hutter suffered a serious injury while practicing his newfound cycling hobby, its successor was delayed and repeatedly reworked. When Electric Cafe finally appeared, its largely digital sounds were no longer cutting edge; hip-hop, Latin freestyle, hi-NRG and synth-pop were all heard regularly on Top 40 radio while house music raged in the underground.

Picking up where Computer World left off

Aside from the slower, more skeletal and aggressive rhythms of Run-D.M.C.-era hip-hop that dominate its nearly non-stop first side, the album barely reflects or acknowledges any of this. Mostly, it picks up where Computer World left off with percussive vocal samples taking the place of most sung vocal lines and telephone sounds where pocket calculator noises once buzzed. Returning to the symphonic classicism of Trans-Europe Express, “Sex Object” is the most startling track. Whereas early Kraftwerk cuts like “Antenna” danced around sexuality and 1983′s “Tour de France” single sang about cycling while its heavy breathing implied a journey to orgasm, this atypically frank track features Ralf Hutter in the role of a reluctant lover who craves for emotion and respect; he’s human, after all.