The first time I heard this album and indeed Kraftwerk I was as a fifteen year old, stood in the old and sadly no longer in existence, Revolver Records, next to the market in Leicester. It was clear from the offset that this was like no other album I had ever heard before!
At that time in 1981, sure there were other purely electronic bands about but nothing before this had sounded like Computer World.
The opening and title track clearly defines everything in the first few seconds, the slickness and smoothness along with THOSE sounds, like nothing I had previously heard. The sequenced parts are so fast they could only be produced by a machine and as such the accuracy and automation is apparent, almost no decay is used on the sounds which makes them very short and blip like and your also very aware of Kraftwerk’s ground breaking electronic drum and percussion sounds, again like nothing previously heard, each sound was created electronically rather than just using drum machine sounds which most other electronic artists of the time were doing.
The song slides around in a minor key giving a very strange musical soundscape, while rhythmically it bounces about behind it all, oh forgot to mention another pretty unique thing and that’s the vocals, using effects like vocoders they take on a very inhuman machine like sound along with speak and spell machine interludes.
I guess in hind sight if you look at all the innovative and ground breaking elements going on its not hard to understand why the whole produced sound is so unique!
Pocket calculator continues the theme with the sequenced backing blips and electronic percussion but without the sustaining synthetic chords, in a seeming more upbeat key this track features a few electronic toys of the time, the Stylophone and a device known as a “Bee Gees mini synthesiser” I know because I had both of them! It also features a very catchy melody, something else Kraftwerk excel in and lyrically this song keeps the whole ideal of a computerised world.
Numbers was one of my favourite tracks on the album, keeping with the theme, lyrically if you can call them lyrics but moving on to an entirely different plane sonically. From the start this is like no other song.
German machine counting launches into another count over the top with sinister synthesised backing before the rhythm starts. Huge crashes of sound and THAT Kraftwerk drum sound and rhythm pulsing and pushing to the maximum over a solitary synthesiser that oscillates and slides around almost randomly and hypnotic.
You can hear where trance got its ideas and influences from on this track alone! The counting again returns in differing styles and languages all over the most compelling machine rhythm, almost like a computerised drum solo. I wore the vinyl out on this and drove most of the household mad! I guarantee you have never heard another song like Numbers. No verse/chorus song structure, nothing to sing along to and no tunes to pick out or whistle along to. It could only be Kraftwerk. Without an end (it just couldn’t have one) it slides into computer world 2.
A calming end to what was the last track of the vinyl album, taking the theme of Computer World with the counting elements of Numbers culminating in the them alone with speeding up almost incomprehensible German counting.
Opening what was then the second side of the album is Computer Love. Melodically and harmonically brilliant, fusing together the so far discovered elements of the album into a masterpiece of a song, the same stark clean sound but with a beautiful melody obviously saved for Computer Love!
Everything seems just right in this song, the mood, the sounds and the subtly complexity of how it’s all put together. Again featuring sounds that are difficult to describe or even copy with synthesisers. I don’t know how they did it. Sometimes you hear something that’s brilliant and you can see how it’s done, if only I had thought of that first? But you didn’t! With this track no matter how many times I listen to it I still can’t see how it’s done. Towards the end more elements of the theme interact with gliding sound effect atmospheres, again developing a trancey feel and then it’s in to Home Computer. Are you starting to identify the theme here? Bleeps introduce the most solid synthesised bass and rhythm that you could put together. Huge and through a good sound system you really appreciate it, this track screams turn me up to the max, a superb chiming synth part spits out a melody while the others thump out the beat while echoed chacks and thwacks play over THAT pulsing percussion. It is un-formularised and cuts into unfamiliar soundscapes with no notice, trance like again and nothing like a “normal” song, very machine like but melodically again superb and all with only one lyric “I program my home computer, beam myself into the future”, containing sounds and effects like you’ve never heard before or since, again I wouldn’t have a clue about how to recreate any of it.
It’s More Fun To Compute has an almost orchestra sinister string sound, or course synthetic, over the top of the hardest drum like percussion and synthetic bass and computerised vocal repeating it’s more fun to compute, over a trancey accompaniment and harsh electronic theme overlaying the whole stark and repeating foreboding structures, mesmerizingly sequenced to perfection
At the time it seemed very futuristic that we would possible live in a computerised world prophesised by this classic album. Indeed in 1981 IBM had decided that there was little future in home computers, now no self-respecting home could be without one.
It defies normal music and sits irremovably in my top ten albums of all time. I went to see Kraftwerk in 1981 at the De Montfort Hall in Leicester, an evening of pure electronic brilliance that, as a fifteen year old left a massive impact in my musical psyche that can never be altered.