Computer World album cover
Computer World


Kling Klang

Zey vere ze robots, sure — but Kraftwerk were also very clearly capable of expressing joyful amusement and emotional depth beneath their intentionally mechanical deadpan, and Computer World showed off that tendency at its finest right as the pop world was starting to finally catch up with them. Its attitude towards a technological progress that would come to dominate our lives is alternately subtly foreboding (the title track’s “Business, numbers, money, people” refrain feels unsettling in close quarters with “Interpol and Deutsche Bank/FBI and Scotland Yard”), a bit melancholy (“Computer Love” anticipates the kind of screen-staring loneliness that drives dating-app users), and — maybe most importantly — full of the potential for good-natured play (the appeal of the titular device in “Pocket Calculator” is less a mathematical one than a musical one: “By pressing down a special key/It plays a little melody”). And even four decades after it first sounded cutting-edge, what antiquity and retro-digital kitsch Computer World might harbor is hard to scoff at when the melodic interplay is so infectious and its chirpy burbling rhythms now sound as fundamental to the DNA of pop music as Chuck Berry’s riffs did to rock. Ironically enough, this music was all made on pre-digital analog synths — the last Kraftwerk LP to do so — but that just makes the deadpan even funnier.

Nate Patrin

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