Monday, March 07, 2005
If you read the liner notes on Queen's album "Night at the Opera", there's a proud statement at the end: "No Synths!". Today that statement sounds a bit like Canute trying to hold back the sea. Queen's album was made back in the late 70s when electronics were only just beginning to sweep across the music business, and there were a few sturdy artists pioneering the use of synthesizers. Probably the greatest of these was Kraftwerk, four Germans with a complete concept for the coming electronic age: down with the histrionics and mass-adulation gymnastics of the guitar heroes, away with the screwed-up faces and emotions of the misunderstood lead singer, and who needs a circus animal for a drummer anyway? Kraftwerk were precise, controlled, they knew what they wanted to say and they knew how they wanted to look while they were saying it. Throughout the mid-1970s they created a host of absolutely seminal sounds that showed the way for the New Romantics and after. "Neon Lights" comes from what is probably their finest, and most remote album, "The Man Machine": it's a gentle, hypnotic, dangerously emotive song, coming as a total surprise when set against the ice-cold lust of "The Model". And that's where they genius of Kraftwerk may well lie: the medium is not the message, it's just the medium.