Fans of outsider music and strange cover versions may remember a 2001 album called The Langley Schools Music Program: Innocence & Despair that collected some archival ’70s recordings of schoolchildren, bringing both youthful enthusiasm and utter naïveté to grownup songs like “Space Oddity,” “God Only Knows,” and “Desperado.” Well, anyone in the market for something like that only more mechanized and Teutonic will love the cover of Kraftwerk’s “Die Roboter” by the obedient Jungen Und Mädchen of Lemmchen Grundschule in Mainz, Germany. (The name may sound alarming, but it just means “Lemmchen Primary School.”) The original 1978 Kraftwerk song, from the group’s The Man-Machine album, is about the terrifyingly awesome potential of robots, who will undoubtedly replace humans in running the world someday. It seems weirdly appropriate, then, to give this song to a group of children. As Jerry Seinfeld once memorably said, “Make no mistake about why these babies are here. They are here to replace us.”
Still, it’s difficult to be too put off by this cover version. After all, the Halloween-appropriate video features 16 kids in adorable homemade cardboard robot costumes, all of which are definitely the products of human hands and not machine-made in the slightest. Besides that, even though the song may be about mindless obedience (the translated English lyrics contain the couplet: “We are programmed just to do / Anything you want us to”), the kids in this video are still kids. One little unruhestifter in the second row even does some unscheduled choreography, for which he is apparently scolded at the song’s conclusion. The music, too, is appealingly human in its imperfection, eschewing the cold precision of the original Kraftwerk recording in favor of something that sounds like a campfire sing-along.