Laibach: An Introduction To”¦ Laibach. (Mute).
CD/LP/DL
3rd September 2012

Laibach have had a productive year, first they soundtracked the film Iron Sky (which we reviewed here) & now they have a compilation album set for release in a couple of weeks which, despite not exactly being a “greatest hits” release, is still a very good introduction to the band & their work. This review by Ian Johnson.

Greetings, music lovers. How about a bit of Laibach? The controversial, humorous and theatrical anti totalitarian / totalitarian avant-garde pop music combo formed in June 1980, in what was then Yugoslavia? Named after the German word for Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia, which had been annexed by the Third Reich during World War II? The band that openly reject any concept of originality out of hand and record dynamic and undeniably powerful “Laibachised” versions of popular songs?

Not ‘arf.

Neither a “best of” nor a “greatest hits” An Introduction To”¦ repeatedly exemplifies Laibach’s inimitable take upon the cover version. Laibach have always presented a vigorous opposition to supposed “alternative” music and its myriad of personal grievances and obsessions. In opposition to the unearned melancholy, cut-price revelations and the ineffective crowing of most contemporary rock and pop bands, Laibach posit authentic, and deliberately questionable, ethics such as military regulation, religion and the state. For Laibach contentment lies in complete cancellation of one’s individuality, a conscious denial of individual discrimination and viewpoint. Their sacrifice is in their recognition of a superior structure, that of the communal philosophy. In his 1993 essay ”˜Why are Laibach and the Neue Slowenische Kunst not Fascists?’ the eminent Slovenian intellectual and critic Slavoj Žižek offered the following helpful passage towards an interpretation of the band:

“The ultimate expedient of Laibach is their deft manipulation of transference: their public (especially intellectuals) is obsessed with the “desire of the Other” -what is Laibach’s actual position, are they truly totalitarians or not? – i.e., they address Laibach with a question and expect from them an answer, failing to notice that Laibach itself does not function as an answer but a question.”

Reproduction Prohibited (obviously a reference to the famous 1937 Magritte painting, mirrored in the group’s CD cover art) opens in grand style with Laibach’s stunning new remake/remodel of Mute’s staggeringly innovative first 1978 release, The Normal’s ”˜Warm Leatherette’ (here translated as ”˜Warme Lederhaut’, Laibach premiered ”˜Warme Lederhaut’ at the momentous Short Circuit presents Mute festival, at the Camden Roundhouse in May 2011). The liberating visceral savagery of The Normal’s propulsive electronic song, inspired by the dark psychopathology evinced within JG Ballard’s great novel Crash, is fully harnessed in Laibach’s exhilarating attack upon the number. Power-driven by the rasping bass vocal and zealous delivery of lead singer Milan Fras, ”˜Warme Lederhaut’ adroitly emphasises that the car is not only a sexual image, but also a complete metaphor for human existence in contemporary post modern high capitalist society. The track run down of the rest of Reproduction Prohibited divulges Laibach’s unique take on the cover version.

The album also features two amusing tracks from Volk (2006), Laibach’s album of reinterpretations of national anthems that uncovers the aggression and the pop intrinsic in the national anthem, indisputably the ultimate pop song. ”˜Germania’ reinterprets Das Lied der Deutschen, originally written in 1797 and used after World War I as the national anthem of the German Empire at the time of the Weimar Republic, while ”˜Anglia’ uses John Bull’s ”˜God Save The Queen’ as its inspiration. Laibach and think of England might be the message here.

”˜Mama Leone’ apparently sold over 20 million copies when it was covered by Bino in the late 1970s. ”˜B Maschina’, written and performed by popular Slovenian rock group Siddharta, who asked Laibach to remix or remake their song, was originally released on Laibach’s 2003 WAT album. Incidentally, an additionally remixed version is also featured in the soundtrack to Iron Sky (directed by Timo Vuorensola), the recent dark science fiction comedy about Nazis invading earth in 2018, after escaping to the Dark Side of the Moon in 1945.ÂÂ

”˜Bruderschaft’, written by Laibach is clearly included to display Laibach’s militantly perverse streak of creativity. Laibach were invited to cover a Kraftwerk song for a compilation. But instead of recording a straight Kraftwerk cover, the band decided to rearrange Laibach’s own original song from 1983′, known as ”˜Brat Moj (Brother of Mine)’, in German, with the application of carefully renovated “Kraftwerkian” sounds.
The purpose of Laibach’s grandiloquent cover of Europe’s ”˜Final Countdown’ is obvious, while their striking Beatles covers, ”˜Across The Universe’ and ”˜Get Back’ from their 1988 interpretation of the entire Beatles Let It be album, reveal their the yearning, dream-like quality and sharp irony, respectively. Arguably, Laibach’s masterwork perhaps remains their 1987 transformation of the execrable Queen hit song ”˜One Vision’, potently translated into a German ”˜Geburt Einer Nation’ (The Birth of the Nation) (see above). Of course, Laibach expose the latent totalitarianism of the odious pomp rock music of Queen, and other band’s of their ilk, in their rendition, but ”˜Geburt Einer Nation’ is not simply a hilarious and invigorating parody. The band, through their ardent delivery of The Queen song, find a bona fide vision of a kind of Valhalla that had been shallowly betrayed and only casually outlined by the original songwriters. Laibach deliver the ”˜One Vision’ that Freddie Mercury could never really properly conceive, or much less comprehend the implications of what he was fashioning. Laibach don’t mess around but they do know how to have fervently subversive fun.

By quoting and interpreting a significant work by Magritte on the cover and in the title of this collection, Laibach offer a clear implement, though not an ideal key, with which to solve the riddle of understanding their methods, their philosophy and their keen sense of absurdity displayed in their cover versions. Some may be displeased that Laibach’s unforgettable covers of The Rolling Stones’ ”˜Sympathy For The Devil’ (in which Jagger’s lyrics have never sounded so potent: “But what’s confusing you, Is just the nature of my game.”) and Status Quo’s ”˜In The Army Now’ are conspicuous by their absence, but overall Reproduction Prohibited – An Introduction To”¦ Laibach does what it says on the label.

3 COMMENTS

  1. nice review! only a minor point: Ljubljana was not annexed by the III Reich but by the Kingdom of Italy. Also after 1943 Ljubljana was included in the Italian Social Republic, the puppet state of Germany

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here