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Can artifice be truthful? (My Kraftwerk interlude)

I’m listening to a couple of Kraftwerk CDs that my son requested for his birthday: Die Menschmaschine and Trans Europa Express. There are a number of good links on Youtube for those who need a Kraftwerk refresher: Die Roboter (ignore the intro) and Das Modell, for example.

When both Kraftwerk and I were younger and their music was current, I had a bit of a hard time with Krautrock (yeah, thanks, UK) and the repetitive lyric of Wir fahren fahren fahren auf der Autobahn. But hearing these albums now, I’m blown away by how good they are: the quality, concept, musicality, and yes, even the lyrics. Maybe that’s because the German lyrics rhyme, which smooths the edges off the language, making it fit seamlessly into Kraftwerk’s synth package. Brilliant.


As for the automaton aspects, I can see them now as pure poetry. When I was a teenager, they embarrassed me: too close to the cliches about Germans, too close to the idea of Germans blindly following orders – in this case programming from who-knows-where. Now, I’d say they’re fucking brilliant from start to finish, and manage to convey more depth and truth than many an expressionistic let-it-all-hang-out ethos ever could. Can machines make art, philosophize, and tell the truth? Maybe if they’re “made in Germany” (and people after all), they can.

A couple of sample verses from the song Spiegelsaal (Hall of Mirrors):

Sogar die groessten Stars/ Entdecken sich selbst/ Im Spiegelglass = even the biggest stars discover themselves in the looking glass

Sogar die groessten Stars/ Moegen sich nicht/ Im Spiegelglass = even the biggest stars don’t like themselves in the looking glass.

Sogar die groessten Stars/ Veraendern sich/ Im Spiegelglass = even the biggest stars change [appearance/ their self] in the looking glass.

Sogar die groessten Stars/ Leben ihr Leben / Im Spiegelglass = even the biggest stars live their lives in the looking glass

Sogar die groessten Stars/ Machen sich zurecht/ Im Spiegelglass = even the biggest stars make themselves up in the looking glass

Such fitting lyrics for Kraftwerk, whose looking glass is consummate and beautiful artifice.


  1. Kraftwerk were popular in Belgium and The Netherlands when I arrived in the early nineties, and remain so. It is amazing their music still has so much resonance today – they are due to release another album next year.

    Somehow they hit on a Euro zeitgeist for techno-pop – some say they created that genre. Whatever, it’s incredible music.

    Is that the first time you’ve dropped an F’bomb in a blog post?

    Comment by Mat — April 14, 2010 #

  2. No, I’ve used the word fuck often in my posts.

    Comment by Yule — April 14, 2010 #

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