A YEAR IN MUSIC: KRAFTWERK – Autobahn (1974)

Review by: Dinar Khayrutdinov

Autobahn is not just my favorite album of 1974, it’s also a good contender for the title of my favorite Kraftwerk album ever, and here’s why:
1) It was the first album to establish Kraftwerk’s trademark electronic sound, so, like it or not, this one can be called their most groundbreaking record.
2) It is not quite as robotic and cold as their later output (and not 100% electronic either, as it features some ‘live’ instruments as well), there is genuine emotion to be found here – specifically that almost transcendental feeling of actually moving along a long, smooth highway which seems to have no beginning or end and always looks and feels the same but is still somehow constantly changing. A classic metaphor of life, if you please. I actually have very nice personal memories of listening to this album in headphones while traveling in a car on an actual German autobahn in North Rhine-Westphalia some four years ago – and I had never before experienced the music I hear being so adequate to what I was seeing from the car window. The title track particularly stands out in this respect, of course, but the rest add to that same feeling as well, with slight variations of mood (for instance, ‘Mitternacht’ probably represents getting lost on a deserted highway at night rather than driving along it).
3) It’s so overwhelmingly, gloriously, triumphantly German that you can’t help but admire it. You could argue that the same could be said about every other Kraftwerk album, but, contrary to Radio Activity, The Man Machine, Computer World or even Trans-Europe Express this one is less about technology and robotic antics and more about seeing beauty in specifically German things – like motoric rhythms, order, progress and… highways, of course.
In other words – this album is absolutely unique, it’s the first of its kind, and it does what it sets out to do with utmost perfection. I love every second of it.