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There’s an old Russian proverb to the effect that although your average German may be a nice enough fellow, you’re still better off shooting him. Me, I like Germans; I even married one. So I have to confess to discounting the adage as mere paranoia.
That is, until I heard Kreidler.
The biggest thing to hit krautrock since Kraftwerk, Kreidler makes tasteful machine music for folks who love to dance. KreidlerAndreas Reihse on keyboards, Detlef Weinrich on electronics, and Thomas Klein on drums, with Alex Paulick adding bass on six trackshails from Düsseldorf, home of Kraftwerk and Neu!, which I suppose makes the Big D Deutschland’s Dance City. If Kreidler’s any indicator, however, folks there dance in theory only.
The 11 tracksall but two of them instrumentalson Kreidler’s eponymous new album all follow pretty much the same recipe: Take a simple melodic phrase, scramble gently over very low heat, then garnish with snazzy electronic effects. At its best, the results sound like the Modern Jazz Quartet playing with computers; at its worstwhich is almost always the case herethey sound like the bad fusion stinking up your average smooth-jazz radio station. On “Circles,” for example, Kreidler sprinkles a friendly TSOP-style disco phrase with lots of electronic bloops and slurps, creating a dish of generic funk that wouldn’t offend the taste buds of even your most die-hard Kenny G fan.
The two exceptions are “Mnemorex” and the instrumental “Do It.” The former is an atmospheric midtempo ditty with mad Scotsman Momus providing guest vocals. The lyrics are pure whimsy: Momus is “Horny as a floppy-ear rabbit/Horny as a hobbit/A hot horny hobbit,” as well as “A superfly guy/With bluebottle feet/Sticking to the ceiling.” The latter, propelled by Klein’s odd fills, adds a touch of human warmth to the otherwise chilly Teutonic proceedings. The authentically funky and danceable track is reminiscent of Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit”or even the Edgar Winter Group’s “Frankenstein.”
Which leaves you with nine not-so-hot tracks, about which the best I can say is that they’re hardly noticeable, especially if you’re doing dishes. I was actually kind of enjoying “The Boy Who Wonders”until I realized that it incorporates the exact same synth-imitating-tuba riff as an old Alan Parsons Project song. As for “Bewitched,” which loops some easy-listening strings, suffice it to say that should I ever find myself a secret policeman in a sci-fi world where loud rock is illegal, I’ll definitely be using it to coerce confessions from closeted metalheads. And then there’s “Estatico,” a Latin-flavored ditty with guest vocals by Leo Garcia that sounds as if somebody locked Moby and the Gipsy Kings in a recording studio with instructions to “Keep it down.” Remember how, back in the day, gullible hardcore scenesters paid money to get pissed on by talentless yob GG Allin? Well, on “Estatico,” Kreidler is GG Allin for sophisticated techno suckers.
One of the reasons that I like Kraftwerk but am completely indifferent to Kreidler is that the former exploitedas did its more overtly satirical American counterpart, Devothe humor implicit in its futuristic vision of a Mensch Machine. Of course, Kraftwerk and Devo were visionaries pointing toward a computerized future that was both exciting and frightening. Well, we’re living in that future now, and so what? There’s nothing duller than a dream realized, and Kreidler is to Kraftwerk as Weather Report is to Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis.
Kreidler makes OK cocktail-party music, if you’re into that type of thing. Too impeccably tasteful to be Eurotrashor even the Sprockets house bandthe band would benefit from a good stiff belt of Sturm und Drang. With any luck, Kreidler’s next album will find the group abandoning good taste in favor of some old-fashioned Emerson Lake & Palmer-style bombastor perhaps tearing a few pretentious pages out of the Amon Düül II songbook. If computers are indeed part of a brave new world, why are these guys just noodling around? What the Computer Age requires is a music every bit as pompous as the current rash of insufferable e-business television commercials.
Maybe Kreidler will release “Mnemorex” as a single and put “Do It” on the B-side. Until then, I advise you to save your money, because the world economy is ripe for a big crash. And when that happens, Germany will probably invade Poland, if for no other reason than it’s something it enjoys doing every 50 years or so. This will undoubtedly trigger World War III, in which case we’ll all likely end up burning our Kreidler, Kraftwerk, and even David Bowie (damn sympathizer!) discs in a patriotic fervor, in huge bonfires in town squares all across America. Which, come to think of it, is the only thing that could induce me to put my hands on Kreidler again. CP