Killing Joke

Live at Hammersmith Apollo by Killing Joke (Four Worlds Media)

Recorded on October 16, 2010, Killing Joke celebrate their 31sth anniversary in front of a London crowd.  It’s one of those instant live recordings, warts and all, yet still sounding amazing.  Killing Joke perform in support of Absolute Dissent,  their first studio album made together in over two decades.  The band has always melded dance grooves with dub bass, harsh guitars and Jaz Coleman’s rasped vocals announcing doom and destruction to the world.  Live, they span their career focusing heavily on their beginnings, playing most of thier 1980 debut as well as the bulk of their latest album.

Tomorrow’s World serves as introduction to the night, a tribal drum tatoo and crunchy guitar line are accompanied by repetitive keyboard tinkle drawing you into the Killing Joke World.  Youth’s chunky bass is prominent on Love Like Blood working up the often funky groove that has been a part of the KJ sound from the beginning, followed by the dubby dance of Bloodsport, basically a chance for the audience to dance.  European Super State continues the club vibe with spacey keyboard sequences and disco beat combined with Geordie Walker’s guitar crunch.  The only thing that distracts from the song is the offkey and slow vocals in the chorus.  This World Hell is metallic guitars coming up against Ferguson’s cymbal crashes, with a fists waving rousing ending.  The Fall of Because is based on a tightly wound groove and call and response vocals that will pound you into a happy sweaty pulp.  Fun is to be had on Madness, as the four members do a round robin of vocals, all chanting the song title to a bouncy circular beat lead by Youth and Big Paul, Jordy slashing away in the background.

Eighties begins the upward climb to hard and fast songs, likely bringing the fans to pogo and dance like wild people to the trance-inducing tunes.  The Great Cull is about the mass murder of our populations by malnutrition from the food providers, set to an insistent rhythm, Fresh Fever From The Skies follows, taking the beat back a little while keeping the energy up, Asteroid hitting your ears like the sonic boom of the arriving subject into the air above, the rock-hard rhythm broken only for a few seconds before careening back harder than before.

The Wait begins a five-song trip back to the beginnings of Killing Joke, the band in total syncronization, their dystopic punk forcing you to want to dance to the apocalypse (and yes, Metallica did a version of this song).  Primitive is a slow burner, Big Paul and Youth again in head-nodding sync, Geordie doing his atmospheric thing around the proceedings, followed by the anxiety-inducing Change, the tight coils loosening for a too short time for the chorus, only to wind you up all over again.  The only solution is to keep moving. Complications is about as old school punk as Killing Joke has ever got, with a distinct verse and chorus simply repeating the song title, the playing full of portent, Jaz chanting  “Alienation/ Self-destruct/ At the count of ten.”

After thanking the band, the crew and the manager, all family, all loved, Killing Joke wrap up Live at Hammersmith Apollo with the Arabic airs of Pandemonium, hypnotizing the listener into a blissful state with help from keyboardist Reza Udhin.  The song is a fitting one to end on with perhaps positive lyrics, Jaz singing “I can see tomorrow, I can see the world to come” and “Life is not longevity and beauty is the only goal.

Look for a new album from the original members in 2012, likely released before December 21st, the end of the Mayan Calendar.

(Review by Bret Miller)

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