Kraftwerk – Radio-Aktivität

Following their seminal record ‘Autobahn’, Kraftwerk were now under the stress to release something that faithfully continued the band’s legacy of electronic music. Some bands benefit under the pressure of trying to make a new masterwork, but in the case of Kraftwerk, their follow-up ‘Radio-Aktivitat’ ultimately feels rushed and half-baked. Although dubbed one of the first ‘synth pop’ records by some, Kraftwerk’s sixth album does little for its listener, save for lulling them to sleep.

‘Radio-Aktivitat’ (German for ‘Radioactivity’) could be said to be a loose concept album about radios, and the music does follow a fairly similar course throughout. Seemingly scared off from the twenty minute ambient epics that made ‘Autobahn’ a hit, ‘Radio-Aktivitat’ instead veers towards shorter songs, but this does not make them any more catchy. In fact, while the ‘fun, fun, fun on the Autobahn’ still rings through my head, there is very little on ‘Radio’ that strikes a chord with me after listening. Kraftwerk opens the album on its best notes; some subdued space music led by simple vocals bathed in Kraftwerk’s trademark thick accents. At least starting out, Kraftwerk keep their brand of space music quite minimalistic. There isn’t too much going on at all besides a synth pattern (or two), a steady beat, and some simple lyrics. With the right inspiration, this could have worked out wonderfully, but there is a real lack in the arrangement that shows painfully with a second spin to the album.

As the album goes on, things start getting a little less hook-based, and descend into more experimental territory. While some of these ventures are interesting from a conceptual standpoint, they don’t really work out on record as they should. The most blatant example is the track ‘Radio Stars’, which more or less consists of a looping ‘bleep’ that continues throughout the entire track and beyond, driving a listener to insanity within an impressive two minute span. The tight essence of Kraftwerk is not completely lacking in this album however. Especially towards the first half of this album, there is some relaxing and even pleasant pop-oriented electronic music for listeners to digest at their leisure. As a whole though, I get a very inconsistent and bland response when listening to ‘Radio-Aktivitat.’ Safely said, Kraftwerk has made many better albums than this.

Tracklist:

1. Geiger Counter (Geigerzahler) (1:04)
2. Radio-activity (Radioaktivitat) (6:44)
3. Radioland (5:53)
4. Airwaves (Atherwellen) (4:53)
5. Intermission (Sendpause) (0:15)
6. News (Nachrichten) (1:31)
7. The Voice of Energy (Die Stimme der Energie) (0:54)
8. Antenna (Antenne) (3:45)
9. Radio Stars (Radio Sterne) (3:38)
10. Uranium (Uran) (1:24)
11. Transistor (2:15)
12. Ohm Sweet Ohm (5:40)

Line-up:

* Ralf Hütter – vocals, electronic sound, drums, keyboards, voice
* Florian Schneider – vocals, electronic sound, drums, keyboards, voice
* Karl Bartos – electronic percussion
* Wofgang Flür – electronic percussion

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