Tour De France
Hutter, Schneider, Hijpert, Schmitz. Hutter, Schneider, Hijpert, Schmitz. Read it aloud. Speed it up. Sound like the grunting monotony of Lycra-throttled cycle fanatics pedal-pumping in unison? Welcome to Kraftwerk.
So, an album by a group of 1970s German electro-freaks eulogising the pant and piston-legs of the Tour De France. In 2003? Eh? Well, it makes sense. Ever controlled, circuitous and gadget-obsessed, the four intrepid robocops of the drum machine and vocoder have turned the French endurance epic into a soundscape.
They have distilled the essence (just a few drops) of 1983's original composition Tour De France and added a clinical cocktail of their own devising. True, they have had 17 years to think about it since the critical polite cough that greeted their last album, Electric Cafe, and it's jolly good in many ways. Production value is tighter than a rusty wingnut, with the methodical tempo and ebullience (or lack of it) of each track just so.
But it's simly not new or impressive anymore. Kraftwerk - who can just about claim to date from the late 60s - worked because they rode in the van of an emerging digital sound in the 70s and spooked around with it in the 80s. But there's only so many times you can flush to make the smell fresh again.
The 12 tracks, cutely named and themed after aspects of the cycle race are precise, at times clubby, at others witty (and sometimes digitally indulgent) and won't disappoint Kraftwerk fans of old. They just sound a bit tired, that's all, but 17 years can do that to you.