Saturday, February 4, 2012
KMFDM - "WTF?!"
The problem with KMFDM is that they put out an album about every six months, and they're all pretty much interchangeable. While it is indeed funny that the band knows this, and openly declares many of their albums to be unnecessary (but you'll buy them anyway), it does mean that I can't really be bothered to follow them regularly. Surprisingly, their new album "WTF?!" is pretty damn essential. While I haven't listened to any of their albums since "NIHIL" too carefully (and haven't really cared about any of them deeply except the great "ANGST"), this disc makes me wonder what I've been missing out on.
One listen to the single "Krank" should perk up your ears. I must say I've never heard a KMFDM album with production quite this good, and the song is a perfect rave-up with a typically sloganeering hook ("KMFDM is the drug for you!") that made me feel right at home. But soon the album's true agenda becomes apparent: This is a very experimental effort. While some of this band's albums could just be put on shuffle and keep a dancefloor moving pretty well, "WTF?!" doesn't quite fit that bill. Many of the songs blend into one another, mostly because they're all so shifty and hard to pin down. For example, the stunning "Lynchmob" at one point quiets down to the point that the drums dissappear(!), leaving Sascha quietly, melodically singing over a piano line. Somehow, the beat never gets lost, and when the beat drops back in, it's devastating.
I wouldn't call "WTF?!" a concept record exactly, because it revisits themes that are pretty standard KMFDM territory. Still, it holds together far more cohesively than I ever would have expected from the band. The prevailing theme is that the minority (however you want to interpret that) has been oppressed by it's leaders long enough, and KMFDM rebel forces are going to take back the world for the people. Each song seems to approach this from a different angle. By the end, there's a tangible sense of the inevitability of a popular uprising, along with the potentially frightening possibilities of violent revolution. Again, not exactly a plot, but it works.
Good thing KMFDM has the musical goods to back this stuff up. It's also nice that every few songs they throw in a blatantly catchy single to keep the audience hooked. A lot of this can be attributed to vocalist Lucia Cifarelli whose more feminine, melodic style offsets longtime KMFDM ringleader Sascha Konietzko's agression and coldness perfectly. While Sascha keeps the war effort churning with frightening blasts like "Panzerfaust", Lucia is the seductive face of propaganda, luring the listener in further. On "Rebels in Kontrol", she delivers an aggressive but irressistable rap performance that I would not have expected from this group. Her shining moment is "Take It Like a Man", which sounds unmistakably as though Madonna had decided to become a dominatrix.
The most shocking moment is the parting shot "Death & Burial of C.R.", probably the scariest possible rendition of the supposed children's rhyme "Who Killed Cock Robin" that could ever be performed. Beware falling asleep to this record because this song will give you nightmares. At the same time, I really admire the band's balls in going this far afield from their usual style. I's legitimately creepy, not just a cheap scare. Thematically it works as well, because such a grim, death-focused poem is the perfect coda to an album about revolution. Who would have thought KMFDM would ever make me think this much?