Thursday, November 29, 2007

Logo #116: Kraftwerk

Created in 1970 by Kraftwerk founder Ralf Hütter, the traffic cone appeared on "Kraftwerk 1," "Kraftwerk 2," and countless bootlegs. Well, you could probably count them if you really wanted to. Kraftwerk occupy a rare, precious space in global pop culture consciousness in terms of popularity, influence, legacy and singularity of vision. Frank Sinatra, The Sex Pistols, Beethoven, Neil Young and The Carter Family inhabit that same space - but beyond that, it's an extortionately short list. Speaking of which, Kraftwerk only speak of desire in "The Model"; practically everything else is an abstract. But they make such beautiful concrete abstract music that no one notices. And they're just really square German guys who ride bicycles and go to the discotheque and drink coffee and make incredibly soulful, relevant and human music that just gets better with age. Their recent "Elektrokardiogramm," performed on their recent series of tours, is gorgeous, ironic (the song ends in a visual flat-line), and downright funky. They're also hugely influential on the Literalist style of composition, but that may be because they're rather literal about the things they present (cf. the musique concrète stylings of "Autobahn"). The first time I saw them live, at the Palladium in Los Angeles in the late '90s, the line stretched double around the block. It was so crowded that when they did "The Man-Machine," this guy gently and rhythmically pushed people out of the way who were obstructing his view. That guy was Ernie Sabella, a noted character actor who played Leah Remini's dad on that episode of "Saved by the Bell" where Slater and Preppie and the rest of the gang went to summer camp. Kraftwerk! The great equalizer! I shall love them always; they make me happy and they make me cry and they are my spiritual and aesthetic godfathers.

No comments: