|Year of release||1982|
Killing Joke is a (in my opinion, heavily underrated) British postpunk band, who had its peak during the 1980’s and is still (or better yet: once again) active. The group was founded in 1978 by singer Jaz Coleman, drummer Paul Ferguson, guitarist Kevin Walker (‘Geordie’) and bassist Martin Glover (‘Youth’). Their first four albums were reasonably popular among alternative audiences. At the time the album Night Time, and in particular the single Love Like Blood was released in 1985, Killing Joke became huge for a short while. The band’s line-up varied a lot from album Revelations onwards. In 1996 Killing Joke disbanded.
However, in 2002 the band reconvened. And with a lot of fresh energy too. A year later the second nameless Killing Joke album was released (their debutalbum also had no title). A new drummer was recruited for the album: Dave Grohl. Just as on Nirvana’s Nevermind and Queen Of the Stone Age’s Songs For The Deaf, his presence played a big part in the album’s dynamics. An absolutely great album; completely different from this Revelations, but equally good!
The name Killing Joke refers to a legendary Monty Python’s Flying Circus sketch about World War II: a British inventor discovered a joke that’s so genius, that everyone who hears the joke immediately dies laughing; translated into German, this weapon of mass-destruction is employed against the nazi’s.
Revelations was not produced by the band itself (like the first two albums), but by legendary producer Conny Plank, particularly known by his work with kraut-rock bands like Neu! and (the first albums of) Kraftwerk. His value to the development of progressive and experimental music was enormous. His influence on Brian Eno & David Bowie, at the time of the Berlin trilogy, was evident.
During the 1980’s he was a popular producer, particularly in postpunk and new wave circles. Devo, Ultravox, DAF, Eurythmics, A Flock Of Seagulls, Kowalski, Hunters & Collectors, and many others, used his services.
He was known for the live sound he tried to emulate in the studio, particularly on the drums. I love that sound. Producers like Steve Lillywhite listened carefully to Plank and utilized it in their own productions. It became too pompous too quickly, as apposed to Plank’s more subtle way of working.
On December 18th, 1987, Conny Plank died of cancer, just 47 years old.
Brian Eno asked Plank to contribute to U2’s The Joshua Tree, which he declined, because he couldn’t work with ‘that singer’.
He also produced Holger Czukay’s Der Osten Ist Rot, an album I greatly admire. Should anyone be able to deliver the album on the cd-format, I would gladly hear about it!
Fun fact: the kraut-rock term stems from “Kraut”, the name of Plank’s music publishing company.
My favorite Killing Joke album, their third, was released this month 35 years ago. Conny Plank’s studio was based in Cologne, Germany, so the band moved there for the recording of the album. Plank’s production is noticeable throughout the entire album. The guitarsound and the drumsound on this album are incredible!
The album starts off great immediately: The Hum. Everything instantly gels: the guitarsound, the drums, the vocals:
Slowly, slowly, all fall down
A blindfold dance and a 1, 2, 3,
no mistakes where they always emphasise security.
Draw the curtains, shut the door, the heater’s on
I couldn’t ask for more
I pull the sheets right overhead
snuggle, snuggle safe in bed.
© Killing Joke, 1982
Followed by Empire Song, also great, with an almost drone-like beat, also released as a single (see below). We Have Joy doesn’t sound like there is genuine fun. Thundering rhythm, roaring guitar and a sneering We have joy!!. The album is soaked in heavy themes. Chop-Chop is about people who are alive, but not conscious of it (And the bodies go by barely half awake). The Pandys Are Coming consists of heavy drums and a screeching guitar theme, followed by Chapter III which is somewhat similar to We Have Joy, nice song. Pounding drums: Have A Nice Day. Land Of Milk And Honey is a fast, punky song. Good Samaritan is a quiet song, which has a beautiful melody and a skeptical ending (Happy, so happy …. La la la la aah). The album closes with the ripping Dregs.
This album has its own distinctive sound, which hasn’t aged at all. Even today the album sounds fresh. A fine feat!
- The Hum
- Empire Song
- We have Joy
- The Pandys Are Coming
- Chapter III
- Have A Nice Day
- Land Of Milk And Honey
- Good Samaritan
Single: Empire Song
A month prior to the release of the album the song Empire Song was released as a single.
In 1982 Killing Joke were involved with the occult, the works of Aleister Crowley in particular. It had the biggest impact on singer Coleman: in February (after recording Revelations) he moved to Iceland to escape the imminent apocalypse, which, according to Coleman’s beliefs, was going to happen soon. The band’s activities, however, weren’t put on hold. When Killing Joke could perform on the pop-program Top of the Pops, Coleman wasn’t there. Drummer Ferguson playbacked to the lyrics and a fake Coleman was placed behind a keyboard. Later in the year the guitarist and bassist joined Coleman in Iceland.
When it became apparent that the apocalypse wasn’t about to happen, Killing Joke moved back to England and started touring and recording again.
Do you know Killing Joke, and this beautiful album Revelations in particular? What’s your view? Let me know!
Killing Joke – Revelations: fearcondition.blogspot.nl
Killing Joke – Killing Joke (2003) & Empire Song (single): wikipedia.org
Conny Plank in the studio: connyplank.com
Killing Joke in Cologne near Conny Plank’s studio: davidcorio.com
Killing Joke – Empire Song, Top of the Pops: darkcircleroom4.com