Monday, June 7, 2010

New Wave for the New Week #69

I made the comment on Twitter this weekend that I often forget what a fantastic band Killing Joke is until one of their songs turns up randomly on my iPod, when I usually find myself turning the volume up a bit and saying to myself, "Damn, what a great song!"

Over the course of 14 studio albums, 7 live albums and 5 ep's, Killing Joke have created quite a catalog of music that almost defies categorization. Part industrial drone, part politically-driven Punk Rock, part keyboard-based dance music, part demi-metal, Killing Joke has influenced many other artists. Among those who cite Killing Joke among their muses are bands like Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden, Tool and Faith No More. Their songs have been covered by the likes of Metallica, Foo Fighters, and Fear Factory. Perhaps their biggest mainstream recognition came when Nirvana copped the riff from Killing Joke's "Eighties" for their "Come As You Are" single, resulting in a plagiarism suit that was dropped after Kurt Cobain's suicide; Cobain had long declared himself a fan of the band.

Originally comprised of Jaz Coleman (vocals), Paul Ferguson (drums), Geordie Walker (guitar) and Youth (born Martin Glover, bass), Killing Joke gained their first widespread exposure thanks to legendary UK DJ John Peel who began playing their records on his program back in 1980. Early albums like ...what's THIS for? and Revelations contained some of their heaviest noise, as the band attempted, as Coleman described it, to "define the exquisite beauty of the atomic age in terms of style, sound and form."

With the release of their fourth album, Fire Dances, the band steered towards a more melodic sound, although the insistent rhythms and loudly ringing guitars of their early work remained crucial to their music. Their next few albums (especially the utterly essential Night Time) saw the band enjoy a brief period as darlings of those college radio stations that had somewhat edgier playlists.

1988 saw Killing Joke nearly collapse under the weight of a legal battle with their record label over an album (Outside The Gate) that was never meant to be released. The recordings were demos that Coleman and Geordie had done for a proposed side project; their label released it under the Killing Joke name in an effort to recoup some of the costs of the sessions. Widely panned and truly well beneath the quality of their other work, the album caused many fans to fear the band had lost their magic.

Since then, Killing Joke has soldiered on in various forms. About two years ago, the original line up reunited, and are currently touring Europe, with new material ready to be released.

For this week's NW4NW entry, I am choosing two of my favorite Killing Joke tracks, "(Let's All Go To The) Fire Dances" and, of course, "Eighties." Damn, these are great songs!

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