Anyone who cycles is a bastard. You have your pavements, for the use of the foot, and you have your roads, for the use of the car. Neither fish nor fowl, the bicycle exists solely to annoy pedestrians and motorists alike, to let middle-aged men case their flabby arses in lycra and then wave them at you, and to allow people to wear hats even the Pet Shop Boys would shun. I mention this only because an addiction to cycling is the reason most often given for Kraftwerk’s fifteen-year retirement from making music. Makes sense, really. But while not wishing to play dentist to any gift horses, I’d suggest that there might have been other factors involved.

How, after all, would you make a Kraftwerk record? You could follow a simple formula. A hi-tech, but essentially dull, item is chosen. The motorway, for example, or the Tour De France, a race so polite that the riders stop to swap jerseys every few miles. A keyboard is turned on. Now, here’s the cunning bit. As you play a tune on the keyboard – any will do, but make sure you only use one finger – you sing some lyrics about your chosen item. Again, any will do, but make sure they’re very, very simple. For example, if you’re singing about Radioactivity, you might want to sing: “Radioactivity / It’s in the air for you and me”. That’s about the level required. Make sure you sing like a robot – if you put any inflection in your voice at all the spell will be broken and the audience will suddenly realise that you are not in fact a futuristic machine-man harbinger of the new era, but a balding man in an unfortunately tight jumpsuit.

Anyway, say you decided to write a song about your weblog, a hi-tech item indeed but most likely very, very boring. You get your keyboard, pick out some Frere Jacques rip-off with your pinkie, and start singing.
I change my website every day
My weblog is the perfect way
My weblog serves me very well
I use Shockwave and XML

So, demonstrably it’s not the hardest thing in the world to make Kraftwerk records. How come nobody does? (Least of all Kraftwerk themselves). The official history suggests that the band – perfectionists, as the staggering detail of their work so ably indicates – felt unable to compete with the new wave of dance music which built on the foundations they had etc. etc. Rubbish! What actually happened is that, around 1981, people started buying computers, and those computers started making noises themselves, and lo and behold the soundtracks to Chuckie Egg and Frag! sounded exactly like Kraftwerk (except usually funkier). Suddenly the bottom fell out of the cod-futurism market: the future had arrived, and it sounded Krap. Ralf und Florian were reduced to singing horrible songs about phone sex to pay the re-saddling bills, and then just resigned themselves to back-catalogue irrelevance. As for influence, 25 years on and Kraftwerk’s biggest impact has been on a generation of twats programming irritating four-note tunes into their mobile phones. How vacuously modern, how very appropriate.