Kraftwerk – The Man-Machine
All ten Kraftwerk albums are worth checking out, but this one was where it all coalesced. They invented vocals over keyboards and drum machines—pretty much the formula for modern pop. You can hear it really happen right here on their 1978 album The Man-Machine. Six songs spread over one disc, three per side; it’s all over in 36 minutes—not a second of it wasted.
“The Robots” is the perfect soundtrack-that-never-was for the climax of Karel Čapek’s 1920 play R.U.R. “Spacelab” is as spacey as the title implies, while “Metropolis” should have been sent back in time 51 years to score fellow Prussian Fritz Lang’s film of the same name. On the B-side, “The Model” is something they probably could have invaded MTV with in the following decade with the right timing and promotion.
“Neon Lights” was just the kind of tension-releasing atmospherics the album needed, while there’s plenty of hip-hop DNA in the album closing title track (Jay Z picked up on that). There are other Kraftwerk albums that shattered precedents a bit harder than this, but The Man-Machine was the one where they proved they were, as Detroit techno legend Carl Craig said, “so stiff they were funky.”