Apple Music 100 Best Albums

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Trans-Europe Express



The German group combined electronic experimentation with futurist philosophy.

Kraftwerk was never shy about reinventing themselves. If their electronic period began with the pinging arpeggios of 1974’s Autobahn, their synth-pop era kicked off in earnest with 1975’s Radio-Activity, where they explored shorter songs and sharper hooks. But with 1977’s Trans-Europe Express, they perfected their fusion of electronic experimentation and futurist philosophy.

Trans-Europe Express situated Kraftwerk as something like Germany’s answer to Andy Warhol—in music for the masses, they invented a new kind of conceptual art. The album includes some of their most consequential sounds—the title track’s melody would form the basis for Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock,” while the grinding rhythm of “Metal on Metal” would help shape the birth of techno a few years later. In mood, the album is torn between boundless optimism and darker, more doubtful tones. It’s up to the listener to decide whether the blissful vocoders of closing track “Endless Endless” are genuinely hopeful or a cheeky glimpse at a post-human future.

“It is a seminal record in electronic music [and] one of my all-time favorite records. I remember smoking a joint and listening to it on really loud speakers and I thought I saw God.”

Elton John