Friday, November 13, 2009

Superb juxtaposition - was ist das Wort für Ringo im Deutsch?

The writer of this November 10 Guardian blog post chose to look at ultra-influential German electronic band Kraftwerk from the lens of another band. You see, the writer referred to Kraftwerk as "the Fab Four." There are several striking similarities between the two bands.

First, at the height of their respective fames, each band had exactly four members.

Second, Kraftwerk had a secretary named Beatle, and the Beatles had a secretary named Kraftwerk. No they didn't - I made that up.

OK, the REAL second similarity is that both bands were EXTREMELY influential, both within their genres and well beyond. Can you say "Joe Cocker"? Can you say "Coldplay"? And there's also the legions of fans who picked up guitars or synths in emulation of their heroes.

One big difference between the two - the Beatles had a ton of hits in my home country of the United States, but Kraftwerk only had one hit here. But that hit certainly affected the band:

The money from the Autobahn hit single – which made the US top 40 after being edited down from 22 minutes to just four – afforded Kraftwerk the luxury of studio experimentation without any outside interference. It also allowed the group to close ranks and jettison all outside ties, a tradition that continues to this day – they have a legendary fear of press commitments and there is no way to communicate with their Kling Klang studios. No telephone, no fax, no reception. And as for letters? They're returned unopened. Kraftwerk evoke the isolation, boredom and monotony of existence by favouring an aesthetic detachment and a reliance on machines.

I would like to interject one thought here - there are situations in which Kraftwerk was influential musically, but not as influential lyrically. Certainly there are many Kraftwerk-influenced artists and bands who have bought into their machine-like isolation - Gary Numan being the prime example. But at the same time, there are other bands who, while incorporating Kraftwerk's musical styles, have chosen to provide a more human lyrical outlook - and right now I'm trying to figure out a way to complete this sentence without having to spell out the full name of OMD. In particular, I'm thinking of OMD's early song "Almost," and their two songs about Joan of Arc. "Almost" in particular sounds like it could have been recorded in Düsseldorf, but the lyrics are light years away from anything that Kraftwerk, or Gary Numan, were doing at that time.

Off-topic postscript - for those who remember old blogs, it appears that the Superfluous Juxtaposition blog is no more. I mourn its passing.
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