Trans-Europe Express

Song Review by

"Trans-Europe Express" is both the title track to one of Kraftwerk's most popular albums and -- in a way that the creators of the song probably never even imagined -- one of the most unexpectedly influential singles of all time. In the context of Trans-Europe Express, the song is the opening of a four-part, 19-minute suite that mimics the calm, ticking sound of a rail car in motion. Other musical elements, including both a haunting synth theme and the deadpan chanting of the title phrase, are slowly layered over that rhythmic base in much the same way that the earlier "Autobahn" was constructed. This process continues through "Metal on Metal" and "Franz Schubert" before the suite and album close with a brief reiteration of the main theme from side one's "Europe Endless." On its own as a single, however, "Trans-Europe Express" became popular in New York's more adventuresome dance clubs, and that popularity inspired rapper Afrika Bambaataa and producer Arthur Baker to use a sample from the song as the basis for the pioneering hip-hop single "Planet Rock." One of the most influential hip-hop records of all time -- and more recently credited as the godfather to the 2000s electroclash scene -- "Planet Rock" owes its unforgettable groove to this unlikeliest of sources. More indie-minded Kraftwerk fans might be amused by R. Stevie Moore's "Commercial," from his 1977 album Swing and a Miss, which uses a brief snippet of "Trans-Europe Express" underneath a completely sincere and enthusiastic endorsement of Kraftwerk's album by Moore himself, who ends his unsolicited advertisement with the entreaty "Broaden your scope, America! Come to enjoy Kraftwerk!"

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Trans-Europe Express 1977 Cleopatra 6:52
No Image 197? Capitol