An Homage to Florian Schneider: Kraftwerk’s Best Moments

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Earlier this week, Kraftwerk’s co-founder Florian Schneider passed away. To celebrate his legacy, our writers reflect on the work of Germany’s most influential electronic music group.

Autobahn (1974)

“My friends and I listen to Autobahn every time we hang out together, and we also love the Big Lebowski which is riddled with Kraftwerk references! It’s so sad to hear that Schneider passed, his music keeps me and the gang entertained for a good 22 minutes as wir fahrn fahrn fahrn auf der autobahn.” – Hannah Buck

Radioactivity (1975)

“Kraftwerk are most famous for their influence on electronic music production. But as a teenager I remember being just as blown away by the precision of their lyrics: how much information they could pack into a short string of words in a second language. In just 10 words “Radio-activity / It’s in the air for you and me”, they simultaneously celebrate the invention that brought a never-ending stream of beautiful music into people’s homes, and describe a terrifying nuclear disaster.” – Matt Purbrick

Europe Endless (1977)

“The euphoric opener to the acclaimed Trans-Europe Express is a display of carefully crafted synth lines and minimal yet heartfelt lyrics serenading Kraftwerk’s native continent. Would make a strong case for Unofficial Anthem of Europe.” – Ollie Gibbon

Hall of Mirrors (1977)

“This seedy and sombre slow burner is an example of Kraftwerk’s occasional venture into darker terrain. Released in 1977, the influence of this track can be heard across new wave, post punk and associated genres, yet its legacy remains crucially overshadowed by the group’s more pop-aligned hits” – Safi Bugel

Franz Schubert, Endless Endless (1977)

“The final stop on the Trans-Europe Express sees the melody from Europe Endless drift away from the drum machines that propelled the rest of the album forward. However, Franz Schubert/Endless Endless doesn’t leave behind any of the forward motion that is so vital to Kraftwerk’s sound as it carries you off towards a vanishing point that you can never quite reach.” – Jack O’Connor

The Model (1978)

“With a bass line so sleazy it could be your dodgy uncle’s theme tune, The Model is still a dance classic. Floaty synths and an understated vocal delivery make the track feel at home in a fuzzy smoking lounge. Simple, catchy and unforgettable.” – Owain Chunk Johnson

Neon Lights (1978)

“Neon Lights is a beautiful number from Kraftwerk’s seventh album that shows the group’s excellent synth work in all its glory. Underpinned by an instrumental that is both uplifting and melancholy, and spiked with the occasional silly sound, Neon Lights is a truly special song.” – Safi Bugel

The Robots (1978)

“I remember getting so freaked out as a kid out when my dad showed me this track on YouTube, a group of German men in red suits pretending to be machines. In performances, a curtain would fall and the band would transform into model versions of themselves – it’s completely insane, precision engineered perfection.” – Ishmael Silvestro

Computer Love (1981)

“Like seeing the world in 8-bit, this track is simple, bright but truly mesmerising. It’s mechanical structure trills and twinkles with recurrent melodies as Schneider yearns for his “data date” in a deeply moving ode to the rise of modern technology.” – Alex Gibbon

“People often talk about Kraftwerk as cold synthetic machine-men devoid of all human feeling. For example, Nirvana producer Steve Albini described them as “a factory rather than as an emotion- or ego-driven entity.” But I find their 1981 track ‘Computer Love’ to be incredibly emotional: it’s one of the few songs that can move me to tears.” – Matt Purbrick

Numbers (1981)

“Proof that sometimes less is more when it comes to producing an amazing track. The combination of squelchy, breakbeaty drum samples and monotonous multilingual counting will have any dingy basement rave bouncing within seconds.” – Ollie Gibbon

Pocket Calculator (1981)

“The STEM anthem ‘Pocket Calculator’ brings to our ears a very primal celebration of mathematics. It’s easy to forget the beauty in maths but it’s always there, it underpins all music, and I’d like to thank kraftwerk for encouraging us all to party on our calculators a little more.” – Amelia Cripps

Tour De France (2003)

“From the pulsing pants and grunts of its opening, ‘Tour de France’ establishes itself as a joyous slice of heady techno that is as absurd as it is infectious. Amid the sounds of spinning wheels and whirring bike chains, Schneider rasps in French to deliver the greatest celebration of cycling that music has ever seen – sorry Freddie!” – Alex Gibbon

Image credit: the Quiteus