Trans-Europe Express: behind the meanings of Kraftwerk’s futurism

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On that extraordinary creative parenthesis that Kraftwerk had in the mid-’70s, when they gave life to the four most acclaimed records of their career, countless discussions took place and we often came at the point to decide what is the one emblematic representative among the four masterpieces of those years, that series started with Autobahn and ended with The Man-Machine. Trans-Europe Express has often been considered the perfect candidate to summarize the creative peak of those times. Perhaps because of its perfect balance between the two souls emerged in that wonderful sequence: the extreme-minimalist structure from which the electronic production of Autobahn started, and the enriched asset of technopop’s seminal spirit that exploded with The Man-Machine. Trans-Europe Express was in the middle and offered a precise synthesis of those factors, getting often on top of the critical and public preferences.

Those four records represented their absolute devotion to the principles of futurism. The machine, the progress, the technology were the new gods to celebrate, bearers of novelties, of necessary changes in a musical scenario that could no longer continue without really moving. Each of those albums represented a celebration. The identification with the symbols of modernity: first the car and the highway, a fascinating stretch of cement that cut the green fields in half, introducing the speed to the waiting world; then the electromagnetic waves, definitive advocates of global communication and essential carriers of ideas and propositive theories, impregnated with optimism (provided that they keep their Radioactivity under control); finally, skipping a step that we will deepen in a moment, the robot, the extreme osmosis between man and machine, the perfect being, conceived and generated to satisfy the needs and desires of the world. The next step would be the love for the computer, but we are already in the post-dimension.

Kraftwerk - Trans Europe Express (Original Video)

The Trans-Europe Express is the mean capable of connecting Europe from one side to the other. It is therefore a symbol of speed and connection, a fantastic instrument born to keep people united and to reach places capable of new teachings in the shortest time. But not only: the place is Europe, a real promised land of the Kraftwerk, the charm of “elegance and decadence”, the story of the infinite inspirations that the old continent has to offer. It is the final identity to aim to. The single individual realizes his maximum aspiration in his belonging to the majesty of the extended continent. Europe Endless will in fact be the most positive song of that album, a crescendo of optimism that welcomes the sacrifice of the individual, of national singularities, in favor of the global-European dream.

In the repeated clash of those rails there was the dream of the elevation of the single person, in the electronic loops of those synthesizers there was the glory and the sacredness of the passage. A message of union and integration purified from any partisan interest, far from any political, economic or social theory. Futurism is also that: an inescapable necessity to enrich the human dimension with the superhuman element. God was machine, it was wave and it will be automaton. In that moment, the divine character was in unlimited territory. And the Trans-Europe Express was the starway to heaven.

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