Some groups are ahead of their times; others seem to make their own. Laibach falls into both categories. Founded in 1980, in the rock hotbed that is Slovenia, the group was famous for setting up their own territory. Concertgoers were often issued band passports as part of their “State in Time” concept. In mid-November of 2004 they launched a North American tour in support of several DVD and album projects, including this double album of songs and remixes. Although this is more of a retrospective, Laibach is still going full techno-cum-industrial speed ahead. Think of Rammstein obsessively influenced by Kraftwerk and you get an idea of what Laibach might be all about.
The first disc opens with a thumping “Das Spiel Ist Aus”; it features a pulsating beat, a hauntingly lush orchestral backdrop, and some venom in the lyrical presentation. The song, which is from the 2003 release WAT, stops at three minutes but could go on for twice as long. “Tanz Mit Laibach” is a logical follower but has a rougher, more ragged arrangement. The added hi-hats add a lot of color to this otherwise mechanical, industrial track. Anarchy and other ideas are mentioned, but the music takes on an almost eerie, gothic quality. An ambitious cover of Europe’s “The Final Countdown” (sorry, you have that in your head now, don’t you? I do apologize) barely attracts the listener, remaining quite limp in its baroque effects and symphonic percussion.
Laibach hit paydirt with the Prodigy-like drum ‘n’ bass flavor on “Alle Gegen Alle”, a track that has a lot of life in it despite the detached, aloof, robotic singing. Were “Da Da Da” performers Trio placed under some sort of bizarre musical interrogation, they might produce this quirky bit of music. (Sorry, now you have “Da Da Da” in your head, too.) The album does have some challenging and pop-oriented techno, especially “Wirtschaft Ist Tot”, from the 1992 release of the same name. Even more successful is the Nine Inch Nails-esque “God Is God”, which has a great hook and tempo behind lyrics about good and evil. The album then goes back to two of rock’s biggest bands—The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. There’s a bizarre, militaristic cover of “Get Back” that might cause some people to crack a grin or burst out laughing. The spoken-word approach to the Stones’ “Sympathy To The Devil” is more Vincent-Price-via-Arnold-Schwarznegger than it is the Glimmer Twins; plodding and rather bland, the track could bore some to tears, although it’s a unique take on the classic, to say the least.
Perhaps the best track on the first disc is from 1987’s Opus Dei. “Geburt Einer Nation” is a unique take on Queen’s “One Vision”. It seems to fit their industrial framework: the vocals are stronger and far more dominant. But the rich and lavish “Opus Dei” doesn’t fare as well; it takes the lyrics from “Life Is Life” (I’m sorry, that’s three freakin’ tunes in your head now). “Die Liebe” has more punch to it; a militaristic stomp precedes a brief, breezy jazz moment. The anthemic quality is never more apparent than on “Drzava” which resembles a news broadcast, replete with horns, bells, and assorted sonic whistles.
The second disc is entirely made up of remixes—often of songs featured on the first disc. It’s not really worth writing home about, but there are a few pleasing moments, particularly “Das Spiel Ist Aus (Ouroborots Mix)” and the Yello-meets-Rammstein “Wir Tanzen Ado Hinkel (Zeta Reticula Mix)”. Throw in a remix of the classic “War”, as well as “Jesus Christ Superstar”, and you have yourself a lengthy (and at times quite bizarre) second disc. If you like your music on the edge of industrial or techno chaos, you would do well to seek out this album.
// Notes from the Road
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