With a guest list full of surprises, from Carl Cox to Midge Ure, the sometime Kraftwerker’s celebration of all things electronic has wit and charm at its disposal
The news may be full of foreboding and depression these days, but not for Wolfgang Flür. “Read all about it! Breaking news from every nation!” heralds the cheery voice at the start of Magazine 1. This is sometime Kraftwerker Flür’s gleaming new solo album, on which he is trumpeted as techno pop’s longest-serving veteran. The record’s arrival is akin to that of a sleek new car, its German build impossibly well-polished, ready to dazzle with an array of new features and technology.
Flür’s model, however, has wit and charm at its disposal. The music can be deadpan and serious at times, but Magazine 1 gives the running impression that it was a huge amount of fun in the making. The fruits of two years’ labour with regular collaborator Pete Duggal, it also features a starry guest list of electronic music royalty. This is music with a smile on its face, a celebration of all things electronic – and Flür brings a healthy mix of past, present and future to his lyrics. There may be references to GPS, but they are executed with the wide-eyed innocence of someone making music when colour television was introduced.
Best Buy, the second of three tracks with U96, is great fun. The deadpan rhymes, friendly chatter and busy, arcade-style beats are brilliantly managed, and the whole thing becomes enjoyably manic with hysterical price comparisons and ghoulish laughter. As well as recalling Kraftwerk at their wittiest, Flür has the charm and sophistication of Yello in play.
The guest list is full of surprises, but on the whole Flür gets the most from his electronic music royalty. Birmingham finds Propaganda vocalist Claudia Brücken telling a story above bubbling synthesizers and the ever-elastic bass guitar of Peter Hook. “Meet me in the West Midlands,” she entreats. Night Drive tells a similarly compelling tale in the company of Anushka, obsessed with “driving at 4am”.
There is a surprise cameo on Das Beat in the form of Midge Ure, who persuaded by Flür to write the lyrics when the two met backstage at a gig in Düsseldorf. The former Ultravox singer buys into Flür’s humour, happy to tell of “London city…where the girls are pretty” over a shuffling beat and spacious synthesizers. Also seated at Flür’s top table are techno royalty, Juan Atkins and Carl Cox. The former brings a mechanical presence to Billionaire, ‘playing a symphony of light’, while the latter joins U96 on Electric Sheep. “People might be scared of me, but I am nice!” runs the tongue-in-cheek protest on another of Flür’s smiley-faced compositions.
The mood changes for final track Say No, which has a substantial canvas widening the sound picture thanks to Maps supremo James Chapman. The grandeur of the sound suggests we have gone to the window of Flür’s workshop and are looking out at the world beyond. There is a serious undertone, too, resonating long after the sounds have faded. “If tomorrow they tell you that you are to sing no love songs, but songs of hate, then there is only one thing to do – say no!”
Almost half a century after Kraftwerk made Autobahn, one of their band members sounds as though he is having even more fun than he was then. If robots are indeed to inherit the earth, then Wolfgang Flür is more than ready for their arrival.