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Joke split the vote
on 9 October 2003
I rediscovered my teenage collection of a couple of hundred metal, punk and post-punk badges ('button pins' if you must) a month or two ago which used to adorn my combat jackets and leathers and discovered that I had more Killing Joke badges than any other. Funny, I would have said that Discharge, The Cramps or Motorhead would have come out on top, but no, it was Jaz Coleman's desperate, inspirational cohort which apparently drove me into a badge-buying frenzy (No 'Fire Dances' pun intended) and made me reassess why they were so important to me. As a tribute, I fished out the 'What's THIS For?' badge, stuck it on my current leather (more of a Withnail trench coat, I don't have the hair for a zip-encusted biker's jacket any more) and have been wearing it down the pub ever since.
Tours in support of the current album are selling out, and the band's back catalogue will doubtless get basted with the remastering/reissuing gravy ladle in the near future. The format that you listen to the Joke's music on, however, is irrelevant. The shimmering crunch of Geordie's guitar (does he still use that Roland Cube?) vying with the pummelling sub-sonics of the bass-slinger of the moment, the stabs of synth, the tribal drumming, all transcended the strait-jacket of the medium you listened to them in, and my hissy EG chrome tapes add an ambience which my current preferred music-delivery format can't emulate (but then I *like* analogue noise! Especially as offered up by Ildjarn et al)
I parted ways with the band as a listener after 'Nighttime' and may well avail myself of the rest of the back catalogue out of curiosity. I picked up the new album at the airport in the summer, have to report that, as attested by the reviews below, this album is going to polarise opinion amongst casual Joke admirers such as myself.
At times, this eponymous offering does deliver the same sort of visceral thrill as the first four albums, and I suppose I would recommend the album of the basis of this handful of epiphanal 'Joke Moments' alone. However, too many tracks are built around riffs which (to be frank) are a little dull, overly simplistic, sometimes too 'metal'. I can see the contradiction in this as I type: however, whilst Geordie's guitar sound was always Uber-Metal, his style was resolutely indie, with lots of space in both his delivery and the mix overall, and although I acknowledge (and rejoiced in) the fact that some songs were composed around single or two-note riffs, they were always presented in a rhythmically interesting way. What lets the album down, I suppose, is the jack-hammer monotony of some of the compositions. If I want jack-hammer, I'll listen to Repulsion, Immolation, Cryptopsy, etc. It's not that it's a bad thing, it's just not what I (personally) want from Killing Joke.
Your call. Worth a punt, but only about a third of it will finds its way on to your iPod.