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KMFDM injects life into stale industrial music scene

Wax Trax Records.

By Rick Roos
Arts Staff

Most people believed that the 1990s would be the decade in which industrial music finally infiltrated the mainstream music scene. Record buyers and clubbers alike were both still taken aback by the commercial success in the past two years of industrial bands like Nine Inch Nails, KLF and Ministry. They were even more surprised, however, by the inability of other industrial groups to transform this newfound acceptance of their genre into some success of their own.

The past six months have seen a dearth of quality industrial releases that has once again rendered the industrial sound relatively obscure. Hopefully, the release of Money, the latest effort by the European outfit KMFDM, will coincide with a popular renaissance in industrial music.

The group itself has been around since the mid-to-late 1980s. As is the case with many industrial bands, their early work is barely distinguishable from their more recent efforts. The band's first two releases, What Do You Know Deutschland and Don't Blow Your Top, feature primarily sythetic grooves and very tame songs on the whole. The first salient transition in the band's sound came with the release of UAIOE, an album that dabbles in sythesizers, reggae, hardcore, and the more traditional industrial sound. The release of 1990's Naive saw the band find a musical style that, while far from original, sounded very fresh and inventive. The band's heavy, repetative sound led to a few minor crossover hits such as "Naive," "Virus," and "Split." Money, the fourth full-length release from KMFDM (whose acronymic name calls to question the sexual relationship of Depeche Mode to their mothers) is one of their best to date. This album is much like Naive in that it is full of repetative guitar and drum-laden hooks as well as danceable samples and beats.

The main problem with the album is its lack of new material. While containing eleven tracks, the disc features two remixes of new songs as well as minor reworkings of two songs from the Naive album. The seven new tracks on Money, however, are for the most part agressive, ferocious songs which are each unique in their mixing of samples and pre-recorded soundbites with surprisingly strong musicianship. The album's best track is "Sex On the Flag". The song builds and grows for the first minute before exploding into a pulsating refrain. The chorus, "Sex on the flag, give me respect or give me death; sex on the flag, responsibility. Sex on the flag, you gotta have some fantasy; sex on the flag, crack down and cry for me!" can simply be described as addictive. Another excellent cut is "Spiritual House." The song features a brilliant backbeat that sounds like a sampling from John Carpenter's movie Escape from New York or a cheap horror movie's chase scene. Again, the band builds up the song slowly with brilliantly placed samples, drumbeats and intermittant periods of calmness before pummeling the listener with an angry, repetative refrain.

The album's two lead tracks, "Money" and "Vogue," are a bit slower but are equally exceptional and entertaining. "Money" shines with its intro and repeated sample of a piece that sounds like something played at the changing of the guard in London. Later, the song borrows a favorite industrial technique of featuring short, abrupt guitar licks and brief, yet rather profane vocal samples mixed into the main repeated riff of the song. The chorus sardonically features the familiar "One for the Money, two for the show, three to get ready, now go kids go" take from the old standby, "Blue Suede Shoes." "Vogue," the album's first single, and clearly most danceable and commercially accessable track, also has an interesting intro that comes off as sythesized chamber music. The slurred, barely intelligible lyrics (shared mainly by group members En Esch and Sasha) blend extremely well with the accompanying female vocal track predominantly featured during the song singing "Nothing's thicker than water, keep in control, we are bound by desire, can you govern your soul?"

The remaining tracks on Money, while less outstanding, are still each quite captivating in their own way. "Help us/Save us/Take us away" showcases female lead vocals with backing by the rest of the group. The track features a repeating guitar sample that sounds like the work of Ry Cooder or the guitar on Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game." The pacing on the cut is slower and the sound is slightly toned down, but the blending of piano, drums, and steel guitar along with the vocals makes the song work quite effectively. The cuts "I will Pray" and "Under Satan" are, respectively, reworkings of the tracks "Godlike" and "Die now, Live Later" which feature the same vocals with slightly differing musical arrangement. The songs, although entertaining and at least as good as the originals, serve as little more than novel remixes of their predecessors. The one disappointing cut on Money is "Bargeld." The song is very similar to the brilliant disco-industrial stylings of My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult , but at over seven minutes of length, and with very little musical variation, becomes quite excruciating.

On the whole, the album is very strong and fierce but is actually quite easy to listen to. The songs all have memorable hooks and definitely make you want to move. More than any recent indsutrial release, Money seems most likely to propel the industrial sound back into the commercial spotlight where it belongs.