Saturday, February 4, 2012


KMFDM are a group that I always felt should be more popular, i.e. something you'd hear on the radio.  I suppose since industrial goth clubs don't run radio stations, there's your reason.  For those not familiar with the band, they've pretty much defined industrial dance since their beginnings in the early 80's.  If you've ever been to a goth club, you've heard KMFDM spun by the DJ when the mood gets too gloomy.  The band's sound is dark and scary, but their songs are so much fun that they are a certain type of person's ideal pop group.  Part of the fun of KMFDM is their attitude, as they fully embrace being a package with an ironic glee.  Their album covers all look the same (just with a different illustration), and they make it a point to almost exclusively use album titles with five letters for no good reason.  They embrace fascist imagery openly, and write an awful lot of songs that are just about KMFDM and how you need it, whatever it is.

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?


  1. nice rambles ;-)
    couple of things to klear up ze konfusions:

    1)KMFDM do NOT embrace fascist imagery as you state, BRUTE's artwork is, if anything, resembling soviet propaganda art.

    2)We do not put out albums every six months, but every 18-24 months.

    3) ANGST was released in '93, NIHIL in '95.

    4)You missed out on the XTORT, (SYMBOLS), ADIOS, ATTAK, WWIII, HAU RUCK, TOHUVABOHU and BLITZ albums in the meantime (chronologically speaking since NIHIL). Plus a slew of Singles and EP's.
    In other words, you missed out on approx. 17 years of KMFDM's steady evolving art.

    5)We don't think that Cock Robin was ever devised to be a children's rhyme ;-)

    1. Hey there, KMFDM! Not sure if this is an actual representative of KMFDM, or a devoted fan, but either way, I'm frankly jazzed that you commented on my blog! Just wanted to respond to your bullet points a bit, to klear up any remaining konfusions:

      1) I should perhaps have said "militant propagandist imagery", instead of using "fascist" as shorthand. I did not mean to imply any particular political leaning on KMFDM's part.

      2) "Every six months" was a slight exaggeration. Though it does seem that every time I turn around there's a new KMFDM album of some variety out, be that a proper album, another greatest hits compilation, or a remix album. They certainly are prolific, regardless!

      3) I didn't mean to imply that Angst came out after Nihil, though my wording was probably confusing. They're both fine records.

      4) Just to clarify, I discovered KMFDM in about 2004, so I'm hardly an old school fan. In the years since them, I've sampled every album of KMFDM's from NAIVE on forward to some degree. That said, to a casual listener, they tend to sound fairly similar, and there are only so many hours in a day. So I haven't given too close of a listen to any albums since ANGST and NAIVE (the only two KMFDM albums I physically owned until WTF?!). I happen to love many bands that have a signature sound that doesn't change much: Motorhead, The Offspring, Bad Religion... Consider it a compliment that WTF?! was able to grab my attention so quickly and keep it there. I've had it on pretty much constant loop since I bought it!

      5) Nobody's really clear how or when Cock Robin was "devised", but it was certainly packaged in book form in more than one collection of alleged children's rhymes. It's certainly a dark piece, though I could see it's potential educative effect for children. After all, it pretty much runs through the established elements of a funeral procession, which people were probably expected to know. Of course, there are many alternate theories about it being a metaphor for the death of some monarch or another, which only makes it more appropriate to end this excellent record.

      So to recap: I am an admitted poseur when it comes to KMFDM, if you care about fan cred, which I don't. KMFDM are cool. WTF?! is a fabulous album. Everyone should buy it.

    2. cool, all is klear then.
      I am Sascha a/k/a/ Käpt'n K, btw.



    3. Thanks for reading my blog, Sascha! I look forward to seeing KMFDM in Seattle sometime \m/

    4. we'll be there !!