Tag Archives: kraftwerk

If popstars were… elemental

Assuming you ignore about 95% of it, there’s hardly an element in the periodic table that hasn’t been the subject of a hit song. David Guetta & Sia are the latest to plunder its grid in the name of pop, with best-number-one-of-the-year-so-far Titanium the result. But who’s been there before and what can they teach us about science?

Kraftwerk – Neon Lights (1978)

Science is fun! A bit ominous and bleak sometimes perhaps, but beautiful too. And so ran the formula for most of Kraftwerk’s best songs. By 1978 they’d already covered motorways, radiation, trains, mannequins and robotics, so it was only logical they should turn their attention to street lighting next. Who knew that exciting a colourless gas with electricity would be so… exciting? The boys from Düsseldorf turned the idea into what’s practically a hymn; its hypnotic simplicity and pretty melody transforming even the most rundown city centre on a wet Monday night into shimmering streets of orange wonder. Noble.

 Nirvana – Lithium (1991)

The world’s lightest metal! Not that you’d learn that from the song. Kurt Cobain’s more interested in its chemical salts and their powerful mood-stabilising properties. Apparently he wrote the lyrics inspired by how born-again Christianity helps some people to hold it together. But he doesn’t sound convinced. It’s a moodswing set to music: from jolly to sarcastic to desperate and back again, evoking the very manic depression that the medication’s supposed to ease. Lithium itself, meanwhile, has ‘high reactivity with nuclei that verge on instability’. AT LEAST KURT’S GOT A KITTEN.

East 17 – Gold (1992)

Here are the facts you will learn about gold from listening to this song:

  • It has been around for a long time
  • It was created by God
  • People think about it when doing bad things
  • It is worth less (much less) than life
  • We don’t need it (do we)
  • “Jesus weren’t sent to set a precious stone free”

Yes it’s easy to forget, when Brian Harvey’s career was to descend into odd rampages fuelled by ecstasy pills and/or baked potatoes, that East 17 used to sneak pious Christian messages into their songs. It’s fair enough to hope for an end to war, but they also pray in this song that rain will stop – with no thought to the hosepipe bans and general unhappiness that such an event would bring to Walthamstow. I’m not convinced that gold’s a stone either. But despite this onslaught of seriousface bombast it’s still a great track, so well done lads.

LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver (2007)

Or Kraftwerk: The Next Generation if you like, as this too deploys scant, well-chosen lyrics over pleasantly minimal electronica. The LCDs’ fondness for propulsive, organic percussion* has been reined in for a nostalgic, elegaic** song about lost youth. So where does silver fit in? In an interesting interview, James Murphy tells us that a) it’s about always feeling like you’re in second place and b) that he wanted to make SHINY MUSIC as opposed to the ‘beige music’ of his first album. This blog is happy to endorse the concept of shiny music.

*banging saucepans with wooden spoons **yes, another long one

David Guetta featuring Sia – Titanium (2011)

I was hoping that the video for this would feature Sia as a giant gleaming titanium lady-robot deflecting bullets and the like, but instead, of course, the only titanium to be seen in the video appears when we see someone riding a bike. Some superpowers do show up later on but missing any opportunity for a giant robot is a cause for regret. Anyway: TITANIUM. Mightiest of metals, known for its strength and lightness, used to make SPACESHIPS and JET ENGINES and MISSILES. It needs a massive song to match it, and I bloody love this one. A bass drop that goes off like a nuclear reactor and a huge hook from Sia that somehow manages to stand out above it. It’s epic. Now we need only wait for the world’s popstars to get round to the rest of the periodic table…

Tied up with string: January

What’s been tickling my fancy this month then?

A Song

Song of the month is Traktor by Wretch 32 featuring the ungoogleable “L”. Wretch says CHOO CHOO GO HARD GO FASTER in it, it’s made of an insanely good combination of beats, synth wooshes and surf guitar, and it’s stupidly addictive. I had it on repeat play ten times in a row at one point. Ahem.

An album

I already put it in my Top 20 of last year, but it’s only really come out in the UK this month, and it’s a big grower. Last Train to Paris by Diddy – Dirty Money is superb. It sounds to me like an electro-R&B sequel to Kraftwerk’s Trans-Europe Express, with a consistently hypnotic chug about it, a strange atmosphere of repressed minimalism, and some brilliant songwriting. Hear it on we7


How lovely was ‘Head Over Heels In Rats’? I am now broody for a rodent friend who isn’t my toy rat from Ikea.

A film

‘What about the King’s Speech?’ asked a colleague on the bus the other day, as I was confessing to my Black Swan addiction (I’ve seen it FOUR TIMES at time of writing). ‘Oh I couldn’t give a shit whether the King makes his speech or not,’ I replied. And I couldn’t.

I've been looking at you, you've been looking at me

I want 100 minutes of extreme close-ups, brilliant sound design (SO LOUD in the cinema!), paranoia, feathers, creepiness, crotch-grabbing, and mirrors, mirrors, mirrors. It’s Roman Polanski meets John Waters meets David Cronenberg and I can’t remember watching a film so obsessively and repeatedly since I got my hands on a VHS of Nightmare On Elm Street in the mid 80s. I suppose there’s my formula: give a girl an eccentric mother figure and throw her into a world where the boundaries of reality are always shifting, and I’ll love it for life (see also: Run Lola Run, Hellraiser).

Some adverts

I’m a big fan of the Which? advert with the ‘genuinely filthy dog’ in it. Why does it speak to me so much, this creature who starts out all clean and handsomely muzzled before going off to have adventures, lick tramps and rifle through bins? Who can say?

Genuinely filthy dog

I also admire Jedward’s well-judged self-mockery in the Money Supermarket ad; they’ve certainly managed to appear in the only watchable Money Supermarket ad I’ve ever seen.

And an honourable mention for holidaying in Jersey, not an amazing advert in itself, but I like that they’re now ‘The Warmest Place in the British Isles’. It’s a vast improvement on previous years’ Channel Islands campaigns which have proudly boasted ‘WHERE A POUND IS STILL A POUND’. That’s a revolting slogan which speaks only to the aspirations of Daily Express readers, who like the idea of going abroad but only if they don’t have to endure any foreign muck or funny money.

Animal of the month

Born to make you happy

And finally, a salute to the humble cochineal, whose pulverised remains are once more featuring in the ingredients lists of some of Britain’s favourite shop-bought cake slices. They went away for a while, but these days with ‘No Artificial Colours or Flavourings’ a big selling point, they’re back back back!

Thousands of these otherwise unloved beetles are dying every day to ensure that our cakes are just that little bit more red. WE WILL NOT FORGET.