7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
I am adding,
This review is from: Computer World (Audio CD)
Computer World is my favourite Kraftwerk album, and I believe it is also their best. Some of their other albums had a greater impact when they were new but today they all sound dated, in different ways, whereas Computer World has not grown old. The group's earliest mainstream albums, Autobahn and Radioactivity, sound thin and old-fashioned. Trans Europe Express and The Man Machine sound too much like the early-80s new wave synthpop that they inspired. The only album of wholly new material that Kraftwerk released after Computer World was Electric Cafe in 1986. Nowadays Electric Cafe's sampled voices and sampled drums sound exactly like something from 1986. It is the only one of the group's albums that has dated badly.
Computer World, in contrast, is perfect. It sounds just as fresh today as it did in 1981. The only instruments are beeps, blips, and buzzes. The production is spacious and polished. The album's production is simple and fundamental in the same way that acoustic guitar music is simple; on this album Kraftwerk became the electronic pop equivalent of Nick Drake. With a few tweaks on the mixing desk, Computer World could be released tomorrow, and it would not sound old. Even the percussion, which so often sounds weak and comical in old electronic records, sounds awesome. The album was sampled well into the 1990s, and is still influential today.
And there is music. You can dance to it. You can hum it. You can play it on guitar. Each side of the record is programmed as a seamless set of songs which mix into each other, opening with the title track, which has a disco bassline reminiscent of the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive". Each track on the album is an influential classic (with the exception of "Computer World 2", which fades out the end of side one). You can hear house music germinating in the harsh, robotised "It's More Fun to Compute", and "Home Computer". "Computer Love" is a touching electronic soul ballad, an ode to computer dating. It is a love song, but it is not really about being in love or falling in love at all. Like Kraftwerk's other love songs it is instead about how technology can extend mankind's reach. The narrator of "The Model" would never have known about his object of desire in a world without cameras, and the narrator of "The Telephone Call" would be lost without the phone.
"Pocket Calculator" is absolutely loveable. Kraftwerk will always be remembered as an icy, grim-faced bunch of electronic futurists, but they had a wry sense of humour, and it is hard not to smile at "I'm the operator / with my pocket calculator". The original German lyrics were not quite as goofy (they went something like "I am the musician / with calculator in the hand"). The song is essentially an anthem for electronic music and electronic musicians. "Numbers" is almost an ancestor of industrial music, with its simple numeric rhythm and its fantastic "sproing" beat. It is an international digital symphony. You can dance to it. You can think about it. You can't hum it, though, and you'd have a hard time playing it on guitar.
If only the album had been longer. At a little over half an hour it is over too soon. It was released in Germany as "Computerwelt", with most of the songs in German, although the backing tracks were the same. There was also a Japanese-language version of "'Pocket Calculator", which was called "Dentaku", although again the backing track was identical. The band also went on tour to support the album, which was released at about the same time that "The Model" (from the group's previous album, The Man Machine) was topping the singles chart in the UK, and there are several bootlegs of live performances.