Record #464: Kraftwerk – The Man-Machine (1978)

the man-machine.jpgThroughout their career, Kraftwerk had operated in the tension between their humanity and the cold mechanical tools they employed to compose their music.

But on The Man-Machine, they fully embrace their robotik tendencies without apology.

While their minimalist pop-songs-by-robots schtick was already fully realized on Trans-Europe Express, Kraftwerk’s next record would take it the next level. With the exception of “The Model,” the (scarce) lyrics of every song focus on the advancement of technology, either through robotics, space exploration, and urbanization.

“The Robots” opens the record with the clearest announcement of their modus operandi ever put to tapes: we are robots, and we are here to dance. The rest of the album fulfills this promise, sounding all the world like an artificial intelligence trying to approximate pop music, planting their feet firmly on either side of the Uncanny Valley.

Yet for all of their automation, no other record showcases Kraftwerk’s mastery of their craft. Because despite their attempts to look and sound like automatons, the members of the German quartet are each master composers. And through The Man-Machine, each member attains perfection. From the intricate drum beats to the metallic bass lines to the glistening textures of the synths, every sound and beat of this record is impeccable.

And so while Kraftwerk’s catalogue may be deep (ten studio albums in all) and consistently rewarding, The Man-Machine showcases everything that made them so great. If for reasons unknown you can only have one Kraftwerk record, this is the one to choose.

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