MY FIRST-EVER trip to Glasgow this weekend gave me the chance to indulge in some Scottish-centric spotifying soundtracks.
So many of my favourite teenage bands seemed to come from the area: Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub and er Del Amitri all helped me get through those difficult years and apart from the Dels (as we fans called them) they continue to play a part in my musical landscape.
However, despite all this tartan-themed tuneage over the weekend there was one act which loomed all over my city break. And they were German.
It was a text from a mate that set me off: “Saturday night Man Machine” was all it said but instantly I was wishing I was at the Tate Gallery in London for what seem to have been an extraordinary set of concerts by Kraftwerk.
Over the years I’ve seen most bands and artists I’ve wanted to: the proliferation of reformations in the last 10 years have seen me tick off a number of the greats, who to be honest I thought I’d never get to see. Love, Television, the Only Ones, the MC5 and The Seeds have all crossed my radar in recent years to varying degrees of success, but Kraftwerk remain tantalisingly out of reach.
There even seems to be some deliberate cruelty involved: back in April last year I was honeymooning in New York and noticed to my horror that we would be leaving the Big Apple exactly a day after Kraftwerk arrived in the city to play a set of shows at the Museum of Modern Art.
As the new wife and I wandered through the aisles taking in the likes of Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Jackson Pollack, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the ever growing number of trucks and equipment that seems to be stopping outside the building as the Krautrock legends’ stage set began to take shape.
Eventually we gave into the inevitable and simply stopped walking around the gallery, made our way downstairs and started to watch a large group of roadies begin to construct Kraftwerk’s live backdrop. Hardly the most romantic behaviour on a honeymoon I’ll readily admit but I swear it was still more entertaining than most gigs I’ve been to.
So what is it about this most strange of bands that continues to fascinate?
Back in December when Kraftwerk announced they would be reproducing their back catalogue at the Tate the demand for tickets was unprecedented: websites crashed, huge amounts of money changed hands and a number of fans even stormed the gallery which probably didn’t happen the last time Monet was in town.
The reviews, naturally have all been glowing (apt for a band whose Radioactivity is possibly their finest moment) with tongue tied journalists trying to express their love with all manner of Germanic puns, futuristic allusions and excited hyperbole.
I’m not going to do the same because I wasn’t there but from watching clips on youtube and listening to their wondrous live album I’ll allow myself to dream a little.
Listen to the peerless Neon Lights if you want a true distillation of the band’s vision: somehow it manages to feel frighteningly modern and threatening and yet also comforting and safe. Here was band capable of making machines sound human, vulnerable and warm. Forget the cliches about them making cold, icy electronica with no feelings.
There’s humour too, which when you think about it gives their music pretty much the full set of emotions. Not many bands can say that.
I hope I get to experience it for myself one day.