Kraftwerk, Germany’s eternally relevant performance outfit, has been entered into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: some necessary love for the showroom dummies.
It’s hard to make the argument that Kraftwerk isn’t one of the most influential bands of all time. The term gets thrown around a lot while talking about them, but without Kraftwerk, most of the modern world of music doesn’t exist.
In what can be seen as a prescient form of prediction, Kraftwerk was able to find the exact artistic fulcrum between audio and technology — and produced some of the most perplexing pieces of musical canon that we’ve ever seen.
It was a complete subversion of the zeitgeist of the mid ’70s. What originally started as a pretty generic Krautrock band by the name Organisation decided to apply the new and weird electronic sound that was shifting through art circles and television studios straight into their music.
They changed their name to Kraftwerk (German for Powerplant) to reflect the operational way that they intended to use these new textures and adopted an apathetic aesthetic of robotic automation. Whether this was intended as a tongue in cheek jab at just how seriously people were taking this sound at the time or as a straight-up replication of the style, audiences were baffled and mesmerised all the same with their 1974 release Autobahn.
Certain reviews of this record were confused: “It’s good, but is it rock?”, and in all honesty, it wasn’t. It was a new genre of music that couldn’t really be defined, purely because there was nothing else like it. It was this sound and the sound of other artists like Giorgio Moroder (and his impact on the disco scene) that would further establish electronica as a genre, and so trying to make sense of it at the time was a quandary.
But as time progressed, every single popular genre of music has been influenced by the sound that Kraftwerk used on their records. From N.W.A. to Bowie, to Daft Punk, to Prince, to Kanye West, elements of their sound are seemingly unavoidable after this turning point in music.
The drum machines, the punchy synths, the repetitive hooks; these guys listened to the underlying musical truth that was trying to escape from their instruments and channelled the future with laser precision.
And finally, they’re being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Fans have been calling for this for years, and in a strange left-of-field Hail Mary, 2021 has seen them finally make the list. They’re the second non-English-speaking band to enter the lineup, and whether or not their music actually counts as rock and roll is a contentious topic of discussion — but they’ve finally cemented their legacy nonetheless.
This stands as a watershed moment for music history in that the German icons are finally getting some of the respect that they are due. When people look back at just how music evolved, similarly to how the sonics were at the forefront of punk music, we’ll view Kraftwerk as the figureheads of modern electronic music. As it should be.
Read more about Kraftwerk here.