I waited a long time for this book to come out (publication was delayed for 12 months, presumably after Kraftwerk's MOMA retrospective was announced), but I feel that my patience has been heartily rewarded. This is a high-quality produckt. And I mean that in every sense: as well as being well written, it's nicely designed and has good production values (if you're into that kind of thing, which I am).
The subjects of this biography - in particular Herren Hütter und Schneider - are notoriously uncooperative and uncommunicative, but David Buckley has done a great job of piecing together their story by interviewing a wide range of former band members and well-known fans of the group. As a music journalist of considerable experience, and a resident of Munich for over 20 years, he writes with an authority that matches his evident warmth for the subject. The prose is rarely less than smooth and engaging, though I spotted a few typos and (as a book editor) there are a few passages that I would like to tinker with.
For me, this is a better book than Pascal Bussy's "Kraftwerk": Man, Machine and Music, and it is of course more up to date, so if you're only going to read one, pick Buckley's. That said, as a huge fan of the group, I'm happy to have read both. They inevitably cover much the same ground, but there are sufficient differences in tone and structure to make it worthwhile.
Of course any book about Kraftwerk is going to be somehow incomplete - the hermetic seal around the group means that there will always be a lot of unknowns. However, Herr Buckley (see what I did there...) has managed to reveal some of the inner workings of the group by the extensive research and interviews he has obviously conducted. I have read the three main previous Kraftwerk books: - Man-Machine by Pascal Bussy - Kraftwerk: from Dusseldorf to the future by Tim Barr - Kraftwerk : I was a robot by Wolfgang Flur
and I have to say this is the one I rate most highly! Entertaining and for a long-term fan it brought back a lot of memories (such as sneaking out of school in 1981 in order to see Kraftwerk play at the Dome in Brighton five days after my 17th birthday).
Some things I didn't quite like: - I feel it runs out of steam a bit towards the end (but I guess some people would say the same about...) - I wish the albums had been analysed in a bit more depth (at one point I thought he wasn't even going to mention Neon Lights...)
But these are minor personal niggles and the fact is that: - It looks fab (always been a fan of Malcolm Garrett) - Mr Buckley has managed to get comments from a lot of interesting people (Peter Saville, Andy McKluskey, John Foxx not to mention Karl Bartos and Wolfgang Flur) - It is highly readable (in my opinion more so than Buckley's book on Bowie which I can't seem to get through despite 3 attempts...)
All in all highly recommended!
Now Buckley - where's that book on the Human League...?
This is a well written and informative book. It starts with an account of the groups early days from Eberhart Kranneman which gives an insight into Kraftwerk without Hutter. Its good to hear from him and its a shame some other early members were not interviewed as I am a keen fan of their early work. Each album is looked at in turn (except Tone Float) and the only critiicism is that after Computor World everything else seems rushed. More is said about the video for Music Non Stop than the Electric Cafe album and Tour de France (Soundttracks) barely gets a mention. Its a shame that Hilpert and Schmitt didn't get more of a write up as they have been in the band longer than Bartos/Flur ever were. None of the major Kraftwerk books take Fernando Abrantes seriously and I feel there was a misssed opportunity here. Klaus Roeder only gets a brief mention in a sentence which cosidering how important an album like Autobahn was is strange. Mr Schult is also abscent. Still after all that its better than the other books mainly as it does not have all the artty farty stuff like Pascal Bussey's.
I have the author's REM: Fiction biography, which is very good, and I read an extract of Publikation in a magazine, so was very much looking forward to this book. Content definitely wins out over style of writing. I have a casual interest in Kraftwerk and wanted to read beyond the widely-held view that the 'band' was/is a neatly packaged musical entity. Publikation reveals the blurred edges of Kraftwerk's birth and development, as well as the now thirty-year saga of personnel changes and internal politics. These are, when all is said and done, human beings, not robots! Structurally and as a narrative David Buckley's latest is superb. It's linear but has many welcome diversions and is never less than a great read. My main criticism is that it's written with a music journalist's often careless use of language and an over-reliance on cod sociology. So the author will adopt the obscure word (e.g. simulacrum) of the academic but use the descriptive repetition of a hack in a hurry ('song' three times in four consecutive sentences rather than song, track, piece etc.) If I sound picky it's because this lets down an otherwise excellent book. And some of the claims are a little A-level essay, not backed up by any evidence. "Kraftwerk's music has always appealed to children, too..." Really? Perhaps Buckley's three year old nephew nodded in time to The Model once! Again, lets the side down. However, these are ultimately minor irritations to me which might not be to others. Still a fascinating read; five stars were the book a bit more carefully executed.
Let me say that this is THE definitive book on Kraftwerk. And I am a Kraftwerk nutter! It is beautifully researched and written and is certainly no hagiography. Hutter and Schneider's dubious treatment of Conny Plank, Karl Bartos, Wolfgang Flur (and even of each other!) comes under critical and unflattering scrutiny. However, the author's instinctive love of Kraftwerk (and the band's legacy)combined with the author's residence in Germany make him the uber choice to fashion the tale. It is quite simply superb and contains incidental lists of Kraftwerk-influenced music that will have me researching for years to come. I have two perhaps minor niggles: 1. The author includes unhelpful comments from the notorious Germanophobe and all-round nob Simon Winder (see my other review of his recent literary offering) 2. The book's name and design are so obscure that a casual browser on the internet would be forgiven for thinking that this was an industrial catalogue/manual rather than a superbly informed book. I know that the design is meant to be some kind of cool Kraftwerk in-joke but it really is counter-productive. EVERY Kraftwerk fan deserves to be led to this book and not be off-put for an instant.
Although beautifully designed the cover of the book looks like an operating manual for Sellafield!! However, I have to agree that this really is an interesting read and had me hooked from page one. I've always had more than a passing interest in Kraftwerk and thought their music sounded ahead of it's time. Whilst there influence is plain to see on the "synth" bands of the late 1970's and early 1980's it stretched far beyond this into other genre's of music and it is still having an influence today. This book explains why.
David Buckley has obviously put a lot of time and effort into reseaching this book and should be congratulated. This to me is the most definitive book written about these music pioneers.
First things first: this book was released in late 2012, not 2011, as noted on here by Amazon. The book is authored by well-versed musical biographer David Buckley who has previously written books on David Bowie, Roxy Music, and others.
"Kraftwerk: Publikation" (320 pages) brings the story of the legendary German electronics band. The author did not get any direct input from or access to the two main Kraftwerk members (Ralph Hutter and Florian Schneider) but he did interview many of the past members of Kraftwerk, including Karl Bartos (who writes a short "foreword"), and others. The best part of this book is early on, as the author brings great insight how the band evolved from its humble beginnings in Dusseldorf and had many musicians coming and going. As a lifelong fan of Kraftwerk, I found this book a pleasant reading, and even found some new things along the way that I didn't know before, such as: the track "Radio-Activity" being in part based on the Billboard listing of "radio-activity" of songs (it was only later that the song would become an anti-nuclear anthem); the art work of the "Autobahn" album (showing the 4 band members in the rearview mirrir) being redone at the last minute to airbrush new band member Wolfgang Flor's head into the picture instead of Emil Schult; and the speculation that the lyrics in "Hall of Mirrors" are directly about David Bowie ("He made up the person he wanted to be/And changed into a new personality/Even the greatest stars change themselves in the looking glass"). Bowie is of course also name-checked in the title track of "Trans Europe Express".
The book comes in 8 chapters, purposefully mimicking the Kraftwerk "1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8" melody from "Numbers", and then again subdivided in 8 subchapters. The biggest shortcoming for me is that the last 20+ years of the band are handled in one single chapter at the end, leaving us truly wonder on many aspects of the band it its latter stages. But I realize that without input from Hutter and Schneider (who left the band a few years ago), this is truly difficult, as this band cares not one bit about media or exposure. I've seen Kraftwerk only a few times in concert (most recently in 2009 when they "opened" for long-time admirers Radiohead) and this band continues to fascinate me. While not revolutionary, "Kraftwerk: Publikation" is a welcome addition to the Kraftwerk book catalog.
I couldn't put this down. A child of the 70s and 80s I know very little about Kraftwerk apart from the Model single. I hadn't appreciated how influential they had been as pioneers of the proudly digital approach to music.
It's a fascinating read and David does a great job of not only layering insight with anecdotal input from those who were there but also in holding back his obvious admiration for what they ultimately achieved. Other books I've read like this one are often ruined by a loss of objectivity.
This Buckley book (or Bookley) is as near as anyone will get to 'knowing' the 'real' KW, as a fan its invaluable, to anyone else its better than being slapped across the face with a damp Spectrum ZX... I would recommend this publikation highly, its even better in German, although everything KW is better in German..
As the prophets of Metropolis once said
"Mensch Machine Ein Wesen und ein Ding"
I'm off to buy Aspargus now with Florian, danke und gute nacht y'all...
Superb book charting the formation, rise and eventual torpor that paralyzed them as a group. As a long time fan and obsessive I really enjoyed it and much more so than Pascal Bussys earlier book "Man machine and Music". Very enjoyable