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The classic lineup, from left to right: Karl Bartos, Ralf Hütter, Wolfgang Flür, and Will Forte... Er, sorry, Florian Schneider.
"She's a model and she's looking good,
I'd like to take her home that's understood,
She plays hard to get, she smiles from time to time,
It only takes a camera to change her mind."
— "The Model"

Kraftwerk is a German electronic group based in Düsseldorf, Germany, noted for such songs as "Autobahn", "Trans-Europe Express", "The Model", "The Robots", and "Computer Love". Originating in the highly experimental rock scene of 1970s West Germany, they're practically the Trope Makers of Electronic Music in general, being among the very first groups to begin experimenting making music electronically, starting in the early '70s. They are directly responsible for the existence of modern electronic Dance music, from Techno, Industrial and EBM to Synth-Pop and even early Hip-Hop.

Their songs mainly have to do with technology ("Kraftwerk" is German for "Power Plant"). Their gimmick was that they were robots; Kraftwerk will often put on concerts and give interviews through robotic replicas of themselves. The robots became less and less human-like over the years.


Discography:

  • Tone Float (1969 - as Organisation) note 
  • Kraftwerk (1970)
  • Kraftwerk 2 (1972)
  • Ralf und Florian (1973)
  • Autobahn (1974)
  • Radioactivity (1975)
  • Trans-Europe Express (1977)
  • Die Mensch-Maschine (1978) note 
  • Computer World (1981)
  • Electric Café (1986) note 
  • The Mix (1991) note 
  • Tour de France Soundtracks (2003)
  • Minimum-Maximum (2005) (Live album)
  • The Catalogue (2017) (Live album)

Tropes exemplified by Kraftwerk and their songs:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The version played live, post-The Mix, of "Autobahn", which is originally 22 minutes long, is compressed down to 9 minutes, but retains all the high points of the original. The same thing happened to the single version, which was slashed down to 3 minutes but still kept the best parts of the song.
  • Animated Music Video: "Musique Non-Stop", one of the first computer animated videos.
  • Arc Symbol: A road cone appears in some form in all of their pre-Autobahn albums, which nonetheless became iconic. Most noticeably, both Kraftwerk and Kraftwerk 2 depicted only a simple drawing of a road cone albeit with different colors (allowing fans to nickname the albums "Red Cone" and "Green Cone", respectively), but also Ralf und Florian, which had mainly a picture of, appropiately enough, Ralf and Florian, had a picture of a road cone on the top of the cover, and even Tone Float, done by Kraftwerk's predecessor band Organisation, had a picture of a road cone on the back cover. Bootleggers took this even further — a bootleg edition of Ralf und Florian replaces the original cover depicting the two artists with a blue cone to match the first two albums. And to complete a 'cone' quadrilogy, one version of the bootleg K4 (a live performance of otherwise-unavailable material recorded between the first two self-titled albums) depicts a yellow cone on its cover!
  • Arc Words:
    • In Computer World, expect to hear the word "computer" on most songs.
    • In Electric Café, the words "Music Non Stop, Techno Pop." are repeated in the majority of songs. They're also the titles of two of the tracks.
  • Author Appeal: Ralf Hütter loves cycling so much he and his band wrote a song about the biggest race in cycling, "Tour de France", completed with sampled voices and mechanical sounds associated with cycling. They even go further by writing an album about it. Hütter suffered a cycling accident that left him in a coma during the initial sessions for Techno Pop (the album that became Electric Café), and Karl Bartos once mentioned that the first thing Hütter said after waking up was "Where's my bicycle?". Hütter denied Bartos' account, but did admit that it made for a good story.
  • Bald of Awesome: Florian and Henning Schmitz.
  • Beeping Computers: "Pocket Calculator" from Computer World:
    "By pressing down a special key, it plays a little melody."
  • Bilingual Bonus: While they translate many of their songs into foreign languages, particularly when performing for the host nation, some songs are done in two separate languages:
    • "The Robots" has the phrase in Russian, "Я твой слуга, я твой работник." "I'm your servant, I'm your worker."
    • "Numbers" from Computer World includes numbers spoken in several different languages. (German, French, English, Italian, Spanish, Japanese and Russian, among others.)
  • Concept Album: All of their studio albums since 1975, to some degree. Though it's being done most consistently on Radio-Activity, Computer World and Tour de France Soundtracks.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Legendarily so. Florian Schneider is particularly infamous for that, mostly for this snarktastic interview for Brazilian television.
    Interviewer: What are the songs that you are going to play?
    [beat]
    Florian Schneider: All.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Basically everything before Autobahn is quite a bit different from their later work. Compare this to anything after Autobahn... No, any suggestion that Florian Schneider played the flute is not the product of a highly deranged imagination.
  • Epic Rocking: All tracks from their debut album (the shortest is "Ruckzuck" with 7:47), "Kling-Klang" (17:36) and "Wellenlänge" (9:40) from their second album, "Ananas Symphonie" (13:55) from Ralf und Florian, "Autobahn" (22:43) and the two-part "Kometenmelodie" (which totals over 12 minutes) from Autobahn, the title track (6:42) from Radio-Activity, the title track (6:52) from Trans-Europe Express,note  "Neon Lights" from The Man-Machine and "Computer Love" from Computer World.
  • Every Episode Ending: Ever since their 1990 tour, "Musique Non-Stop" has closed all regular Kraftwerk concerts. Part Meaningful Name, this also gives each band member a brief solo before he leaves the stage. With the current stage layout, it's also the only indication of what each of the band members actually do during a concert.
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out:
    • "Autobahn" has a couple fake-out endings. It's best to clear your daily schedule if you're going to listen to that song.
    • "Ruckzuck" comes to a complete and natural stop, then after a moment of dead silence, the ending of the song suddenly plays again for a second and last time.
  • Floating Head Syndrome: A few albums have this, namely Computer World and Electric Café.
  • Genre Launch: Kraftwerk is, by and large, considered the first electronic band: their influence can be heard in electronic music to this very day.
  • Germanic Efficiency: If you've ever wondered what Germanic Efficiency sounds like, this is it. They wanted to make music that sounded like '70s Germany, in the same way that the music of The Beach Boys sounded like early '60s California.
  • Greatest Hits Album: Subverted with The Mix. As the band did not simply want to release a vanilla compilation album, they recorded new version of their most popular songs, which also brought them up to speed with the then-current state of synthesizers.
  • Hall of Mirrors: The title of one of their songs, which is of course about a hall of mirrors.
  • Krautrock: They were classified as this in their early years, back before they started using exclusively electronic instruments. In fact, the members of Neu! were members of Kraftwerk first, and played on the first Self-Titled Album.
  • Looped Lyrics: Several songs, almost the majority of them in fact.
  • Machine Monotone: Emulated in the vocals of some of their songs, most prominently, "The Robots."
  • Mood Whiplash: Occasionally they'd throw in a love song on their albums, such as "The Model", "Computer Love" and "Sex Object" (though that last one is more of an Anti-Love Song), quite a shift from singing about robots, pocket calculators and radioactivity. Ironically enough, "The Model" is the band's most popular song with the general public. That is probably because most people can relate to a man singing about his attraction to a beautiful woman, but much fewer people can relate to lyrics about science and technology.
  • Mondegreen: One of the more famous ones is the chorus of "Autobahn", which says "Wir fahren fahren fahren auf der Autobahn" ("We drive drive drive on the highway"), which was frequently misheard as "Fun fun fun on the Autobahn". Hütter didn't mind the mishearing, as he has frequently cited The Beach Boys as one of his favourite bands.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: A common theme, although the best-known examples would be "Autobahn" and "Pocket Calculator".
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: On The Mix version of Trans-Europe Express. Orchestration in their music is very rare, but it was of course a synthesized organ.
  • Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future: A few of their album covers. Intentionally invoked in the remastered CD editions (which originated with the Catalogue box), as the cover artwork for each album is reduced to a single, incredibly simple, large icon.
  • Poetic Justice: The single Tour de France was supposed to have been issued as the first single from the album Techno Pop, before the production work on the album had been completed. The album was shelved when Ralf ended up in a coma from a cycling accident.
  • Protest Song: "Radioactivity." The original lyrics mixed references to Madame Curie (radioactivity) with "Tune in to the melody..." (radio activity - i.e. listening to the radio) but later live versions, and the version from the 1991 album The Mix, make it an explicitly anti-nuclear anthem, specifically the proposed second processing plant at the Sellafield processing site in Seascale, England. In 2012, they started performing an altered version of "Radioactivity" with new, Japanese lyrics concerning Fukushima.
    "Sellafield-2 will produce 7.5 tons of plutonium every year. 1.5 kilogram of plutonium make a nuclear bomb.note  Sellafield-2 will release the same amount of radioactivity into the environment as Chernobyl every 4.5 years. One of these radioactive substances, Krypton-85, will cause death and skin cancer."

    "It's in the air, for you and me."
  • Real Song Theme Tune:
    • For its initial 1983-1990 run, the PBS Edutainment show Newton's Apple used "Ruckzuck" (from their long-disowned debut album) as its theme (it was replaced for the home soundtrack due to licensing issues).
    • The Saturday Night Live sketch "Sprockets" used a sped upnote  version of "Electric Café"'s 'chorus' melody.
    • The Chinese film Master of the Flying Guillotine uses "Kometenmelodie", "Mitternacht" and "Morgenspaziergang" off of the Autobahn album as most of its Background Music.
  • Retraux: Their later live visuals have an '80s-inspired 8-bit look to them.
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: Perhaps at some point in the early to late Seventies, but as time went on their robot personas became less and less human. Case in point, here's the 1978 robots and here's the Falk Grieffenhagen-bot from one of their recent live shows.
  • Robot or Spaceman Alter Ego: It is because of Kraftwerk presenting themselves as robots that a number of electronic bands have adopted robot or spaceman alter egos.
  • Self-Titled Album: Their first two albums.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The "eins zwei drei vier" count that begins "Showroom Dummies" was made as a reference to The Ramones' habit of starting their songs with Dee Dee quickly shouting "one two three four!"
    • "Trans-Europe Express" references a meeting between the band members and Iggy Pop and David Bowie, while they were working on Iggy's The Idiot and Bowie's Station to Station. They even sneak a pun regarding Bowie's album's title.
      "From station to station, back to Düsseldorf City / Meet Iggy Pop and David Bowie..."
    • "Metropolis" references the 1927 German science fiction classic Metropolis.
    • They have a song titled "Franz Schubert".
    • "The Voice of Energy" shout-out to the Voice of America (Whose German broadcasts began "Hier spricht ein Stimme aus Amerika", and an early Bell Labs recording.
  • Speedy Techno Remake: Their remake of Autobahn on their album of self-made remakes, The Mix. It is speedy only in comparison though, given that they've taken the original version which was over twenty minutes long and condensed it to only over nine minutes long, by making it a little faster.
  • Standard Snippet: Any TV item about post-war Germany (unless soundtracked with schlager music) is pretty much guaranteed to make heavy use of "Autobahn."
  • The Stoic: A staple of their robot-like personas.
  • Synchro-Vox: Used for the Russian-speaking portions of the video for The Robots from The Man-Machine.
  • Synthetic Voice Actor: Or rather, synthetic singer, in many of their songs.
  • Trope 2000: The single "Expo 2000," filled with repeating soundbites of different voices saying: "Das einundzwanzigste Jahrhundert" / "The Twenty-First Century" throughout.
  • Trrrilling Rrrs: "Wirrr sind die Roboterrr." Less noticeable in the English version, but still present.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: "Trans-Europe Express," which makes traveling to hang out with David Bowie and Iggy Pop sound about as exciting as buying groceries. (Florian went asparagus shopping with Iggy Pop after they met, so points for realism, at least.)
  • Updated Re-release:
    • The Mix, which re-records some of the group's best known songs on what was then the most up-to-date synth technology.
    • 2017's The Catalogue release can be seen as an updated version of The Mix, much longer (covering 8 of their albums) and with more re-recorded songs from their 3D live concerts.
  • Zeerust: Some of their older works sounded futuristic at the time but are somewhat dated now, or they've already come true, like Computer World. The version of "Computer World" on the 2005 live album Minimum-Maximum still references the KGB.

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