A three-hour documentary on Kraftwerk, thank me later, watch it now.
For fans of krautrock, drone, ambient, and electronic music, Kraftwerk and the Electronic Revolution is a fascinating history of how some of the most influential music of our times emerged from the boredom and hopelessness of 1960s Germany. The filmmakers take the subtitle of their movie very seriously, and they want to crawl back to find the Big Bang of cultural influences that would make something as innovative as Kraftwerk possible. It’s not an unimportant question, since the ideas the electronic musical collective would establish in their 1970s output would influence everyone from glam rockers like David Bowie and Brian Eno to early hip-hop pioneers and New Wave bands like Duran Duran, and on into today, where techno and arty experimentalists like Radiohead still borrow from the German group’s bag of tricks. Even wuss-rockers Coldplay lifted the hooks for their song “Talk” from “Computer Love,” somehow achieving the impossible and proving one could actually be bigger nerds than the pasty originals, Florian Schneider and Ralf Hütter. And that Kraftwerk core duo likes to dress up as robots, so you know they’re plenty nerdy.
Kraftwerk and the Electronic Revolution traces the rise of German music back to the influx of British bands that went to the European country to ply their trade in the early 1960s. (The Beatles most famously cut their teeth in Hamburg nightclubs.) At that point, German youth were looking to establish a new identity that embraced the freedom of the West and finally unshackled them from the shame of their country’s past—much in the same way Pete Townshend has argued that British rock stood in direct defiance of an older generation in England who were always rubbing past glories in the faces of their children. Though German musicians initially copied their British idols, who themselves were copying African American blues musicians, eventually they would want something that was more in tune with their own experience. As Karl Bartos, one of two former Kraftwerk members to participate in this unauthorized film, put it, they knew they weren’t from the Mississippi Delta, so why pretend they were?” – James S. Rich