Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Greatest Albums of All Time in No Particular Order (entry #6)

Killing Joke-Killing Joke-1980 (Malicious Damage Records)

First of all, check out that cover-pretty much the best ever. Post punk happened fast and blew away the immediate past. PIL killed the Pistols-Rotten style. Wire got art rock right. And Killing Joke broke out and did it in a way and with a sound that has never been matched over their first four releases. On this, their debut in 1980, Jaz Coleman’s growling, guttural, manic animal rants meshed with Geordie’s much more truly distinctive guitar grinding sound than say The Edge’s of the time and a truly tribal rhythm section abetted by metal, punk and industrial tendencies and the fruits of their warfare show in the numerous covers by hack bands even as early as the late 80s (see major hacks for most of their career, Metallica, covering “The Wait” on their Garage Days Revisited ep circa 1987).

I was lucky enough to catch them at the sleazily legendary Bookies club on a depraved stretch of 6 Mile Rd. (not 8 Mile-F Eminem-he is beyond useless-enuff said) near the prison like University of Detroit campus in 1981, shortly after obtaining my driver’s license. It was a revelation to someone just learning about the beauty of noise and whatnot. And to boot, I practically had the place to myself-it was a weekday summer night with maybe 100 heads in attendance. This album had dropped in August of 80’ and they were supporting the just released “What’s This For?” an almost equally stunning world of racket that came out in June of 81'. They played pretty much every track off both to much acclaim. I was converted over completely at that juncture. In retrospect, they were almost like a British update on the Stooges with a nutso frontman flailing in front of a bunch of hardass but disaffected backers who were only concerned with bringing the noise and not making a scene.

“Requiem” kicks off Side one with a throbbing Throbbing Gristle-like industrial synth line that is soon dominated by Geordie’s mammoth slab-like licks and drum thuds and slowly builds up to a swinging mid-tempo very un-punk beat with Jaz' "echoed" chanting with all kinds of nasty effects. “Wardance” is exactly like it sounds-a celebration of mayhem propelled by total tribalism. It embarks with the sample of a power drill and Jaz snorting out a welcome that is most unbecoming augmented by the most sinister and staccato bassline laid down up to that time. “Tomorrow’s World” is beyond delightful in that it has an apocalyptical feel with it art damaged effects and completely languid and turgid sledgehammer pace paced by Jaz's elongated rants that smother the outcome. “Bloodsport” is a somewhat up tempo instrumental that was seemingly groundbreaking at the time but hasn’t stood the test of time tunewise. Oh well, can't win them all.

Side two rips open with the afformentioned “The Wait” that much like “Requiem” burns to a start with a two note buzzsaw soaring synth lick that quickly evolves into the most intense, fast and ultra uber punk-like tune on the record and practically in the history of la monde. “Complications” follows with a serviceable approach to postpunk as it might be described and on the US release their single “Change” appears and like many acts of the time, it is their most mainstream track with subdued guitars and a funky beat yet is the only ennui inducing track on the record. How it was chosen as the "hit" single, I will never know. Luckily “S.O. 36” follows-a somewhat of an ode to Krautrock with it’s sampled German conversation and totally off-kilter but entrancing and mystically dense feel. Basically, nobody did this shit at this time and this is so experimental for a "punk" band that I still do not know what to make of it-except to embrace it. Finally, “Primitive” wraps up the effort with perhaps the most trad Brit metal track on the album but do not be alarmed-it is a monster track that would easily fill up any arena more than even “Smoke on the Water”. Verdad. In closing, there is no band that during the course of four albums that matches the diversity of Killing Joke-Nirvana was close but Cobain offed himself too early because of that skank, Courtney, who seemingly killed him if even indirectly.