Book news

  • Kraftwerk by Uwe Schütte review – a band that saw the future
    Uwe Schütte

    From ‘Autobahn’ to ‘Trans-Europe Express’ … how the electronic pioneers helped shape a new Germany and changed the history of pop

    Kraftwerk’s Ralf Hütter once told a journalist that his group’s 23-minute-long song about car travel “Autobahn” was an attempt to answer the question: “What is the sound of the German Bundesrepublik?” The autobahn system is, Uwe Schütte writes in this engaging critical introduction to the band, a “deeply ambivalent German monument” because it was a pet project of Adolf Hitler.

    Schütte sees Kraftwerk’s music as “a contribution to the political, cultural and moral rebuilding of Germany” after the second world war. Their records obliquely approach history, and the process of constructing a future-oriented nation, by focusing on the material aspects of its everyday life: roads, nuclear power, trains, computers. The group enthusiastically embraced Germany’s place in the European project, in songs that addressed the continent’s interconnection (“Trans-Europe Express”) and were often recorded in a number of European languages.

    Perhaps it’s best to take Kraftwerk at face value: as a corporation whose business is industrial design

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  • Here We Are by Graham Swift review – a tale of magic, love and loss
    Barney Norris

    From the blitz to Brighton’s end-of-the-pier shows, this is a dreamlike story of England’s suburban underbelly

    The story unfolds as if we’re watching it through glass. Evie White, widow of the actor Jack Robbins, goes out for lunch on the first anniversary of her husband’s death. Then she returns home, walks into the garden where Jack’s ashes were scattered, and suddenly sees all the cobwebs glittering in the dew around her, before heading back inside and upstairs to sleep. What she remembers in the course of this slight day, though, is a story that spans half a century, an account of the great vanishing act of life, which is as light and brilliant as the cobwebs in the garden.

    Fifty years before, Evie was an assistant to magician Ronnie Deane, known on stage as the Great Pablo. She was also engaged to him; Jack was the compere who introduced Pablo and Evie to the crowd on Brighton Pier each evening, before running round to the back of the audience to watch the show. Graham Swift’s new novel is really Ronnie’s story. It follows his evacuation during the blitz from east London to an Oxfordshire house where he was taught magic; his alienation when he returns home and finds that it’s home no longer; his national service and path into performing with Evie and Jack. At the novel’s climax, Swift gives us a description of Ronnie’s act which, because he’s made us wait for it, is as enthralling as anything that will be published this year.

    The book wonderfully captures the experience of evacuation during the second world war

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  • Color Out of Space review – Nicolas Cage goes cosmic in freaky sci-fi horror
    Cath Clarke

    A repulsive alien organism is unleashed on Earth in Richard Stanley’s scary, hokey – and often funny – extravaganza

    In the bonkers 2018 thriller Mandy, Nicolas Cage gave one of his Cage-iest performances yet, face splattered in blood as he pursued a cult leader who’d tortured his girlfriend. If you thought that was trippy, wait till you see Color Out of Space, in which Cage’s mug is once again sprayed with blood ... alpaca blood.

    Adapted from a story by HP Lovecraft, this is a freaky-deaky, retro-cosmic science-fiction horror about a meteor that slams into Earth unleashing an extraterrestrial organism. The whole thing looks as if it was dreamed up under the influence of a quality batch of LSD. I laughed out loud at the hokiest bits. But I’ve got to admit I was sucked in and genuinely scared, too.

    Related: Director Richard Stanley: 'A coven of witches was using my house.'

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