After celebrating 25 years of “conceptual continuity” in 2009-2010, with the associated tour and best-of album, as we headed into 2011 the first signs of the next stage of KMFDM were revealed, in the guise of a couple of singles, and now a new album under the moniker of WTF?! – continuing with the age-old pattern of five-character album titles.
And going on those early singles – the non-album, three minutes of fury that is Day of Light, followed by the rampaging, sloganeering industrial metal of KRANK – there was high hopes for this album, these songs providing notice perhaps that KMFDM were continuing their rejuvenation and were going to provide a storming new album.
Sadly, this was not to be. Oh yes, KRANK is still here, and as the opening track blows the doors off with an extended intro compared with the single version, that actually makes the track even better. Yes, it’s borrowing slogans and lyrics from countless KMFDM songs of yore, but it sounds fresh, alive and simply fucking great.
So it’s a shame that what follows is such a disappointment. Come On Go Off first appeared on Dependence 2011 in the spring in the form of an astonishing, dancefloor-destroying Rotersand remix – and having heard the album version, it’s now obvious to see why that version came first. The album version is a shrinking violet, something of an apology of a wimpish, electronic backing that descends into a swing tempo for the chorus. Really, just no.
There is a depressing sense of having heard it before across the album, too. Lynchmob and Vive la Mort, in particular, are the kind of mid-tempo guitar industrial tracks that have peppered the mid-section of KMFDM albums for years now, what might be termed the default setting for the band. And Take It Like A Man, with its lighter, synth-heavy sound and Lucia vocals, is pretty much the same idea as Strut from Blitz.
There are better moments: Lucia’s first appearance on the album is for the guitar-heavy grind of Rebels in Kontrol, a call-to-arms that might help to rouse a few from their slumbers, while Dystopia is an intriguing, downtempo electro track that eventually bursts into an impressive, guitar-led chorus – and aside from Lucia’s vocals, it doesn’t half sound like the now-long-absent genCAB with the multi-layered, jittery electronics.
One final moment is worthy of note, though – Amnesia is buried away as track ten, a soaring, multi-vocal track with Sisters-esque gospel backing vocals in a jaw-dropping chorus, and is pretty much the one real departure from the norm for KMFDM on the entire album, taking an admittedly well-trodden path but striking out along the way in a new direction.
As I noted intially, there were high hopes for this album. Recent events in the world – Wikileaks, insurgencies, political discourse, economic collapse – seemed to have spurred KMFDM into writing a furiously political album, but sadly it appears that the intermittently biting lyrical content was bolted onto the same old sound (with the odd exception), when said fury could have inspired so much more.
I hate writing reviews where I’m so disappointed with the end result – but this is so truly one of them. Especially one released so soon after a “best of” that showcased every single moment that has made KMFDM so great over the years. Oh well, there will be another album in 2012, I’ve no doubt, and I can only hope that whatever comes next will be more consistent and inspiring than this – more of the “conceptual continuity” but less of the “same old”.