Computer World is the eighth album from electronica pioneers Kraftwerk. It was released in 1981 by Elektra and totals thirty four minutes and thirty two seconds in length. It is unquestionably one of the landmark albums of the techno music genre. This album sounds familiar the first time you listen to it, but when you consider that this album has been repeatedly sampled by countless techno artists, it's more understandable. This is an extremely good electronica disc; it's recommended to music fans who aren't even interested in the genre.
The first time I listened to this disc all the way through, two things struck me immediately. The first was the familiarity of the disc, even though I had never heard it before. It's much the same feeling I had when I listened to Revolver by The Beatles for the first time; it's sort of like a musical epiphany. It's incredibly clear how much influence these guys had on the music that would follow them.
The reason that Kraftwerk had this influence is the second striking thing. These guys simply know how to create good music; that's all there is to it. The music just flows like a fine wine; it progresses beautifully without any weak points and the end leaves you wanting more.
Kraftwerk aren't lyrical geniuses. Their lyrics either consist of numbers or strange declarations like "I'm the operator of my pocket calculator." Don't let that turn you away; their genius is in the music. And that genius is in abundance here.
I would easily identify this album as the third piece in a trilogy that serves as the peak of Kraftwerk's recorded career. The group had some excellent moments before, especially on 1974's Autobahn, but starting in 1977 with Trans Europe Express, continuing with 1978's The Man-Machine (an album I still regard as the high water mark in electronic music), and concluding here, Kraftwerk set the musical foundation for how electronic elements would be used in music and, at the same time, set the mark very high for how well these elements would be used.
The album opens with the title track, Computer World (5:06), with a hook that screams familiarity the first time you hear it. It's one of the few techno tracks I've actually found myself humming; ironically, virtually all of those hummable techno songs are by Kraftwerk. "Interpol and Deutche Bank, FBI and Scotland Yard," indeed.
Pocket Calculator (4:55) is full of happy beats and lyrics like "I'm the operator of my pocket calculator," "I'm adding/and subtracting," and "By pressing down a special key, it plays a new melody." This is perhaps their most purely fun track on the album. The Casio sampling is great, too.
Numbers (3:19) is much more downbeat, with lyrics consisting only of the vocal repetition of the numbers one to eight. The variety of vocal synthesization over a very interesting beat makes this one work, but it's perhaps the weakest track on the disc.
Computer World .. 2 (3:23) is basically the lyrics of Numbers against a mix of the beats of Numbers and Computer World. This is kind of a theme in Kraftwerk's music; taking the lyrics of one song, putting them on the beats of another, and producing a third track. Oddly enough, it almost always works, and it does so again here.
The fifth track, Computer Love (7:16) is, yes, a song about cybersex, predicting it in 1981. It takes a sad perspective on it, with depressed and distorted vocals and very mellow beats. This song comes off very well and is one of the better songs on the album.
Home Computer (6:19) is another song that screams familiarity even when you hear it the first time. The beat sounds like it has been used hundreds of times since, but this song still manages to sound fresh and interesting, particularly the scales portion of the track.
The closer, It's More Fun To Compute (4:14) uses the same great beat of Home Computer with some different lyrics and a few different elements (such as an echo effect on the beat). A very good way to close out the album, as this song is a demonstration that even using the same beats, a song can sound completely different.
As I mentioned earlier, this is the third in what I perceive to be a trilogy of Kraftwerk albums that lay down the foundations of electronica. The first, Trans Europe Express, demonstrates how one can describe an environment through music, in that case, industrial Germany. The second, The Man-Machine, describes emotions through electronica. This one, the closer of the trilogy, seems to be an attempt to humanize technology and even to paint a humorous face on it, all through technical excellence. Together, the three albums are near-perfection in the genre, and all three are recommended to anyone who may enjoy one of them.