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Laibach - Anthems

I may well be the only person in the world who gets a bit nostalgic about Laibach. I can still remember the day I first heard them: some time in the late 'eighties, I was browsing at a record store when I noticed that the urgent, militant rhythm that was playing over the speakers had the chord progression and tune of Queen's then-recent hit "One Vision". The words, however, were rumbled in a sepulchral bass-baritone, and were in German! Queen's Live Aid-inspired paean to world unity was transformed, simply by literal translation, into something much more sinister. I went to the checkout to ask who had done this, and found the checkout guys puzzling over the same thing, and wondering if these lyrics were even legal to publish!
I didn't buy the record then, but have always remembered that it existed. Last year I bought Laibach's latest album W.A.T. and found that a decent but not particularly innovative industrial dance album. It's very listenable and somewhat menacing, but lacks the edge of that earlier work. Laibach's albums are hard to get around these parts, and I have not seen the Opus Dei album that that Queen cover, known as "Geburt Einer Nation", first appeared on in the shops since then*). Now at least, there's a good career-spanning compilation out: Anthems.

Listening to it confirms my impression of the W.A.T. album: Laibach's recent material is good, but it lacks the danger and cleverness of their earlier work. Also, Laibach are much better at subverting pop classics than at writing their own material: the best songs on the 2-disc compilation are their covers of "Life is Life", "The Final Countdown", "Sympathy for the Devil", "Get Back" and of course "One Vision", which, now that Rammstein have achieved mainstream popularity, is not as shocking as it was back in the day, but is still a pretty exciting, dangerous track. "Life is Life", originally by Swiss one-hit-wonders Opus, actually appears in two versions: one bombastic rearrangement with vocals in German, again, and another that stays much closer to the original sound and has English lyrics but is retitled "Opus Dei". And yes, the retitling matters. By presenting the song as the anthem of a powerful political/religious group, Laibach add new context and meaning to what was originally a light-hearted, optimistic piece, making it seem sinister and gloating. I'd make fun of their postmodernism if it didn't work so frighteningly well.
The second of the two disks contains remixes of classic and lesser-known Laibach tracks. I find that I can do without those, but the album is worth buying for the reinterpretations on Disk One.

*) although I realise that nothing's been stopping me from looking for it on Amazon. But most of the time, that's not how I find my records.

Comments (2)

Hey Reinder, have you seen the Laibach kittens?

http://www.rathergood.com/laibach/

Just goes to show that there is nothing that can't be improved by kittens in jackboots.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 17, 2004 4:27 PM.

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