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Laibach

WAT
Mute

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At this point, what late '70s or '80s punk/post-punk artists aren't either plotting a comeback or attempting a resurgence? It's no different with industrial music, a movement that took post-punk to extremes, incorporating Futurist manifestos, Dadaist cutups and Fluxus performance art along with an underground current of harsh-edged electronic noise that eventually softened into dance-club fodder. In industrial's second generation, you had the porno-noise of Merzbow, the nihilism of Einsterzende Neubauten, the strident socialism of Test Dept., the techno-paranoia of Front 242 ... and then there were Slovenian wunderkinds Laibach.

 

Banned from the start in their home country for adopting the German occupation name of their home city, Ljubljana, this group formed alongside an art movement they titled "Neue Slowenische Kunst" (New Slovenian Art) which claimed to be its own independent state. With dramatic Wagnerian pomp, Laibach unleashed a heart-pounding, fist-raising spectacle on albums such as Nova Akropola and Krst Pod Riglavom -- Baptism, using the impact of fascist imagery to make a strong statement about both the totalitarian nature of Yugoslavia's government and neo-conservative tendencies in Europe and the U.S.

 

However, not everybody got it. At the same time NSK's visual-art wing, Irwin, exhibited in museums worldwide, Laibach's catalog was not only devoured by industrial music's intellectual underground but embraced by more than a few neo-Nazis or Teutonic/pagan wannabes, along with Death in June. And ultimately, they couldn't keep up their frantic critical pace without lapsing into self-parody -- after covering "Life is Life" by Yugo pop stars Opus on their album Opus Dei, they subsequently skewered the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Queen and Andrew Lloyd Webber, as well as churning out substandard techno for the clubs.

 

With WAT (which many thought stood for "War Against Terrorism" but is actually "We Are Time"), Laibach comes roaring back into mid-'80s mode as cultural commentators, even while retaining a dancey side. The Valkyrian intro "B Mashina" and the closer "Anti-Semitism" (don't worry, they're against it) hearken back to Nova Akropola. "Hell: Symmetry" pops and locks like Kraftwerk. "Satanic Versus" and "The Great Divide" address the current political situation where the dominant West is immersed in a struggle with the developing Eastern cultures, and "Now You Will Pay" prophesizes the coming of barbarian hordes (Islam? China? India?) with knives and bombs, burning our cities and our Disneylands in what promises to be "the end of history."

 

The goth-club kids will be assuaged by the inclusion of two thudding floor-stompers -- "Achtung" (eerily close to Rammstein, who ripped off Laibach) and the anthemic "Tanz Mit Laibach," dedicated to German electro-beat pioneers DAF, perhaps as an updated answer to that duo's classic "Tanz Der Mussolini." Though not quite wielding the fiery sword of the old days, WAT is almost a return to form for these industrial icons, as sure as you can count "eins, zwei, drei, vier."

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