Thursday, June 6, 2013

Classic Album Review: Killing Joke - Killing Joke (1980)

With Killing Joke set to play my local (in Wellington) in just over a week’s time, I revisited the band’s phenomenal first album, the career-launching eponymous debut from 1980 ... a gig review will follow on everythingsgonegreen.

It is difficult to imagine the sort of impact this album would have had on any poor unsuspecting pop-loving innocent stumbling across it for the first time upon its release some 33 years ago. But the album cover art/sleeve design would surely have provided at least some advance warning of the content given that it ultimately so accurately mirrors the album’s musical imagery.

This is music for the UK’s disaffected inner city youth circa 1980; the sound of punk once that initial burst of teenage excitement, chart momentum, and shock factor had given way to far more evolutionary and pragmatic realities like advancing the genre musically.

This is a soundtrack for all those of the post-Pistol persuasion still sober and unfortunate enough to be living in the real world. The music of the many thousands of angry bleak urban landscapes spread across the globe, yet curiously enough, still music of a very British, and very Eighties nature; it’s the noise associated with cold rains, rattling old underground trains, wet concrete walls, and litter-strewn, wind-blown wastelands; the sound of boredom, of unemployment, of recession; a forewarning of Margaret Thatcher’s all new recently-elected conservative government, and its stockpile of life-changing (for many) social policies about to be unleashed upon the masses with all the subtlety of a spiked wooden piece of four-by-two bashing about the side of the skull.

It sure as hell ain’t Abba, Supertramp, Xanadu, or whatever else was rocking your little cotton socks that particular year.

It is also, it’s fair to say, a somewhat watered down variation on Heavy Metal. With large helpings of what can only be described as an early template for the form of noise we know today as “industrial”. This is a primitive industrial punk/metal/pre-techno hybrid - frantic drumming, layers of grinding guitar, droning synth, and with Jaz Coleman’s gruff building site delivery, a vocal to both die for and rally behind all at the same time.

Best Tracks: ‘Requiem’, ‘Wardance’ (“music to dance to”), ‘Complications’ (“this is the new age”), but pride of place must go to the glorious minimalism of ‘The Wait’ (clip below).

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