A year and a half or so ago, I came to terms with the fact that KMFDM’s sound hasn’t changed at all in the last ten years or so, and may well never change again. In the absence of artistic development, I concluded then, we need to take the examples that employ the formula particularly well, place them up against the examples that do a lousy job with the same formula, and make those standouts on both sides of the quality line play Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots against each other until we can come up with something approaching a coherent evaluation.
What I didn’t prepare for was a total lack of such examples, which is exactly what can be found on KMFDM’s 15th full-length album Blitz. The songs on Blitz are almost to a T exactly what we have come to expect from KMFDM, with little to no allowance for standouts one way or another.
Our Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em ring is empty. Now what?
The answer is easy, really: We get an album that is unabashedly and perhaps even intentionally average.
Perhaps in allusion to the last time their sound actually developed beyond what they had already done, Blitz starts with a song titled with only a symbol. Unlike the album titled with a string of five symbols which rendered it unpronounceable, however, there’s a clear meaning here. The symbol is the astronomical sign for Uranus, with an extra couple of lines added to indicate that the arrow is going through the circle rather than emanating from it. The intended translation? As the chorus so helpfully offers, “Up Uranus”.
This is what you get for diving any further into Blitz than the surface sheen: something unfunny, juvenile, and vaguely scatological. There seems to be a concerted effort to be as profane as possible throughout most of Blitz, actually, as tracks like “Bitches” (the token self-parody on the album, an approach once appealing turned ironic through overuse) offer stanzas like this:
You thought us noble, rad, and true
You just don’t have a fuckin’ clue
All the humor, pun, and wit
A heaping, steaming pile of shit
With a smile and a wink
We make believe our poop don’t stink
Intentionally bad, maybe, but that’s just embarrassing. The lyrics sheet even provides an extra curse (in the words for “Me and My Gun”) that doesn’t even appear in the song, and for what? To prove how badass they are?
There are, admittedly, good moments, too. There’s the slide guitar work in the Russian-language “Davai”. There’s ringmaster Sascha Konietzko’s developing croon (first demonstrated on previous album Tohuvabohu‘s title track) on the Human League cover “Being Boiled”. And of particular note are Lucia Cifarelli and Cheryl Wilson’s much-needed feminine touches to the testosterone-fueled proceedings on the dancehall-ready “Strut”.
It’s not the type of album that will ever outright turn you off, really, it just won’t force you to care either. “Potz Blitz!” is a German language track that sturms and drangs as forcefully as you suppose it needs to, but you won’t remember anything other than its oft-chanted title five minutes after you hear it. “Bait and Switch” is a showcase for the smoother side of Cifarelli’s vocals, and it’s pleasant enough as a dance pop song, but as the protest against organized religion it seems to be trying to be, it’s fairly useless. “Me and My Gun” sees Cifarelli getting all screamy with a jaunty delivery, and it’s at least different, thanks to that extra attitude, but Konietzko’s rudimentary backing isn’t enough to support it for long. “Take ‘m Out” is an interesting enough exercise in what one man can do all by himself (it’s the only track on which Konietzko recruits no supporting players), but it goes on for too long without doing anything particularly noteworthy.
With no clear separation from past albums and no true standouts, then, why does Blitz even exist? Maybe KMFDM just needs a few new songs to keep from getting bored during their performances. Still, you’d think they’d try to offer us the same courtesy.
// Notes from the Road
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