The last great Kraftwerk album, Computer World captured the band right at the moment when its pioneering approach fully broke through in popular music, thanks to the rise of synth pop, hip-hop, and electro. As Arthur Baker sampled "Trans-Europe Express" for "Planet Rock" and disciples like Depeche Mode, OMD, and Gary Numan scored major hits, Computer World demonstrated that the old masters still had some last tricks up their collective sleeves. Compared to earlier albums, it fell readily in line with The Man-Machine, eschewing side-long efforts but with even more of an emphasis on shorter tracks mixed with longer but not epic compositions. While the well-established tropes of the band were used again -- electronically treated vocals, some provided by Speak and Spell toys; crisp rhythm blips; basslines and beats; haunting, quirky melodies -- there's a ready liveliness to the songs, like the addictive "Pocket Calculator," with its perfectly deadpan portrait of "the operator" and his favorite tool, and the almost winsome "Computer Love." Cannily, the lyrical focus on newly accessible technology instead of cryptic futurism and vanished pasts matched this new of-the-now stance, and the result was a perfect balance between the new world of the album title and a withdrawn, bemused consideration of that world. The title track itself, with its lists detailing major organizations presumably all wired up, echoes the flow of Trans-Europe Express, serene and pondering. "Pocket Calculator" itself is more outrageously fun, thanks to the technical observation that "by pressing down a special key it plays a little melody." Others would take the band's advances and run with them, but with Computer World Kraftwerk -- over a decade on from their start -- demonstrated how they had stayed not merely relevant, but prescient, when nearly all their contemporaries had long since burned out.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett