“Computerwelt” by Kraftwerk - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1981Album Chart of the Decade: 1980s

TJR says

Three whole years on from “Die Mensch-Maschine” Kraftwerk finally delivered the much-anticipated follow-up in May, 1981. As they had done since 1975's “Radio-Aktivität” the quartet remained: Ralf Hütter (electronics, keyboards, orchestron, synthanorma sequenzer, synthesiser, vocoder, vocals), Florian Schneider (electronics, speech synthesis, synthesiser, vocoder), Karl Bartos (electronic percussion) and Wolfgang Flür (electronic percussion). Conceptualized by group leaders Hütter and Schneider, all seven tracks were linked by a celebration and acknowledgement of the ever-increasing use of the computer in our daily lives, despite the group themelves not actually owning such a thing. In fact, it was a very small minority of people who owned home computers at this time, although the budget-priced Sinclair Spectrum ZX80 and ZX81 had started to develop the concept as being realistic for ordinary folks. The title-track launches as if aiming for Moroder's futuro-disco market before quickly settling down to the more mechanical Kraftwerk-like style. The half-human half-robot vocals set out a computer user list of sorts: “Interpol and Deutsche Bank, FBI and Scotland Yard, Business, Numbers, Money, People”. The German-language version of the track adds “Flensburg und das BKA, Haben unsere Daten da”, which effectively translates as “Swansea and the DVLA have our data there”. Very early on Kraftwerk cottoned on that big brother was watching you via computer. Such prescience. This is followed by “Taschenrechner”, the albums lead single which was released (or at least performed) as “Pocket Calculator” (English), “Mini Calculateur” (French), “Minicalcolatore” (Italian) “Calculadora De Bolsillo” (Spanish) and “Dentaku” (Japanese). Great job Kraftwerk. It reminds us that computers, large and small, are becoming a bigger part of our lives than we realise. But where do I get one with a special key that plays a little melody? Jealous of that!

The compelling “Nummern” strips thing back to a super-tough electronic breakbeat over which a range of computerized voices from various toys and machines rhythmically deliver nothing but single digit numbers in a range of languages including German, English, French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese and Russian. Their timing is immaculate it has to be said. Clever machines. Without pause, this segues into a reprise of the intro, unsurprisingly titled “Computerwelt 2”, which also incorporates elements of the preceding “Nummern”. It's all very clever, though I think I'd have preferred to hear a new song. Fair play to the prophetic “Computer Liebe” (“Another lonely night, Stare at the TV screen, I don't know what to do, I need a rendezvous”) which is 13 years ahead of the first modern dating website, although it's a fairly weak song by recent Kraftwerk standards. “Heimcomputer” (“I program my home computer, Beam myself into the future”) is fairly straightforward lyrically and more notable for being built on a very-cool ever-changing backing track which points in the direction of the house and techno revolution to come. That psuedo-groove-thing continues on to the album's closing track, “It’s More Fun To Compute”, titled and sung in English even on the German edition of the LP. It is fun to compute, they were right about so many things on this wonderful album.

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [05:06] 7.8.png Kraftwerk - Computerwelt (Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider-Esleben, Emil Schult, Karl Bartos) Electronica
A2 [05:04] 8.9.png Kraftwerk - Taschenrechner (Ralf Hütter, Emil Schult, Karl Bartos) Electronica
A3 [03:20] 7.4.png Kraftwerk - Nummern (Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider-Esleben, Karl Bartos) Electronica
A4 [03:10] 7.1.png Kraftwerk - Computerwelt 2 (Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider-Esleben, Karl Bartos) Electronica
B1 [07:15] 6.2.png Kraftwerk - Computer Liebe (Ralf Hütter, Emil Schult, Karl Bartos) Electronica
B2 [06:19] 7.2.png Kraftwerk - Heimcomputer (Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider-Esleben, Karl Bartos) Electronica
B3 [04:13] 6.2.png Kraftwerk - It’s More Fun To Compute (Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider-Esleben, Karl Bartos) Electronica

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