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Laibach’s Spectre

Laibach-S-584x5841,111 words

Laibach
Spectre
Mute, 2014

There have always been doubts about just who Laibach are and what they are up to. First who are they? The band is a collective so it is never too clear where “who” ends, although it seems to begin with Milan Fras, the doom-laden vocalist who chants and growls rather than sings most of their lyrics.

Next, what are they up to? This question often crops up as the Slovenian collective often plays with Communistic and Fascistic imagery. This might seem a little edgytarian to those of us from the more Beatlesque or Miley Cyrusy parts of the cosmos, but let’s not forget that Slovenia, the band’s homeland, was, is, and has been perched much closer to the great Fascist/Communist fault line that ran through Europe for most of the 20th century. Any musician from those parts who doesn’t reflect that in their music and style is probably making a conscious effort not to.

Given the fact that the Western music industry and media have always been hard liberals, Laibach have needed to hedge their bets when operating outside their local area by throwing in a little bit of cognitive dissonance – e.g. taking the piss out of NATO (a low cost solution for them) – and by allowing everything they do to be taken ironically.

But what if they actually were . . . ulp . . . evil fascists?! Well, that wouldn’t matter too much, as they are officially “weird and foreign.” I guess you could call this taking advantage of their “Slovenian Privilege.”

Laibach-Spectre-7-photo-by-Maya-Nightingale-584x390

 

From this unique niche, over three decades they have been able to follow their ominous jack-booted muse down a dank, electro-industrial passage that has by default increasingly come to echo the dissonant hum and sense of foreboding that lies at the heart of the Neu-Europa, a much troubled continent, where the past glowers with increasing anger at the present, and where the future hatches dark plans of its own.

Their new record Spectre is a further development of this dynamic. Jaunty opening track “The Whistleblowers” has been interpreted as a reference to the Snowden affair, but is much more an evocation of the kind of teamwork, toughness, and group-mindedness that seems like a nostalgic yearning in the present atomized age. This is highlighted in the excellent and inspiring video for the track.

This interpretation is strengthened by the second track, the squalling electro of “No History.” Over a cacophonous swirl, Fras and a female singer – possibly Anja Rupel – chant and sing lyrics like, “Use the wisdom of ancient sages/ Call out for heroes/ Who will be the creed/ Of a new political faith.”

01-Woman-With-A-Gas-Resistant-Pram-England-1938The only disappointment is when they throw in a mention of Occupy Wall Street, but even this is left hanging ambiguously by the next line – “And judge the intentions of those we don’t trust.”

Having pointed the finger in this way, Laibach switch back into obfuscation mode with the next track, the industrial computer game pop of “Eat Liver!” a frenetic, ugly creature that scuttles and buzzes like a radioactive cockroach on amphetamines. Never mind who controls Wall Street. What about the rampant promotion of the ass-munching antics of lesbians, gays, and, yes, straights that the lyrics refer to?

While you’re still disoriented by this and starting to think, in some deep, dark nebulous way, that, yes, Liberalism really is an irredeemable evil, the title of the next song “Americana,” allows a negative association to form, although the gothicky pop, laced with choral and string effects, is pure “Europeana,” like a lost soundtrack from a spaghetti space Western.

“We Are Millions And Millions Are One” is a duet between the unlikely couple of Fras and his female comrade, and the closest thing to a love song on the album. It brings things almost to the banal, setting the stage for “Eurovision” to unleash its glacial menace and apocalyptic message of European disintegration. This is clearly stated – “Europe is falling apart” – and reiterated over a track that noticeably develops a little Middle Eastern swagger and truncates the last line to “Europe is falling!”

With lyrics like “In the absence of war/ We are questioning peace/ In the absence of god/ We all pray to police” you would literally have to be a wilful moron or simply a Liberal music journalist to miss the fact that this album is a serious and sincerely felt critique of Europe and modernity, and not some post-modern joke by a bunch of Slovenian pranksters. But even if it were, the fact that it resonates tells its own story.

“Walk With Me” and “Bossanova” show the outfit’s musical amplitude, throwing out a range of angular and unconventional sounds and lyrics larded with sinister references. In live shows “Walk With Me” is performed with marching feet on the screen behind the stage; while “Bossanova” has lyrics like: “Feed my hunger with poverty/ Feed my anger with children/ Feed my lust with bikini food/ Feed my ego with luxury/ I’m having a good time/And I want my nation to break down,” which almost reads like a haiku (or more correctly a tanka) of disenchantment with modern materialist society.

After hamming it up and plugging themselves on the electro pop of “Resistance of Futile,” Laibach make something of a statement by ending with a track called “Koran.”

The album’s title Spectre of course evokes the spectre of Communism from Marx and Engels’ 1848 Communist Manifesto, but now, of course, Europe faces quite a different spectre, that represented multiculturalism and the tolerance of demographically asymmetrical systems within the same state, namely the secular materialism, sexual egalitarianism, and anti-natalism of the West and the demographic dynamite of Islam and other Third World systems.

Again, one would have to be a complete moron or Liberal to avoid the simple logic of racial replacement that this entails. The track frames this dichotomy with a naive female voice mouthing the kind of feelgood platitudes on which liberalism is based over an aromatherapeutic music track: ” I believe in a better world/ I believe in a better place/ I believe in brotherhood, equality and freedom/ I believe in happiness for all.”

Fras then undercuts this with his trademark growl as the music spirals into a darker place, intoning “Words are substance for tomorrow/ They are weapons of our mind/ Words can take us far away/ They will leave us all behind.” The duet is not so much between opposites as between one who is fully deluded (the typical Liberal) and the other, who is only half deluded but starting to awaken. Needless to say, such lyrics could only have been written by one who was fully awake.

 

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11 Comments

  1. R_Moreland
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 4:59 am | Permalink

    The first time I saw anything of Laibach was watching MTV (this is when I still had a TV set!). Anyway, they announced they were playing an “anti-fascist” video: Geburt Einer Nation.

    Geburt Einer Nation is posted in various places around the Internet.

    Well, perhaps MTV had to say it was “anti-fascist” to get it on the air. But the symbolism of the song and the video are quite obvious.

    I have seen Laibach play in concert (in a goth-punk venue) and the audience vibe had to be rated as being to the right, not so much politically but culturally. It just may be that art transcends the politics, and creates the culture for itself.

  2. Vick
    Posted March 19, 2014 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Hand wringing over whether some band or another is explicitly, overtly “on our side” is frankly, retarded.

    While there’s certainly nothing wrong with enjoying political music made by musicians who share one’s own political views, most bands who wear their politics on their sleeves get tiresome pretty quickly. People like the Clash in spite of their politics, for example.

    What bands like Laibach and Rammstein trade in are themes that are of interest to political and cultural dissidents across the political spectrum, especially those with a concern and fascination for European modernism and the history of Western Civilization. My own take is that in the extremes of this history, left and right tend to blur – the one sure constant is that this is white history and white culture in all its unique, resplendent and sometimes horrible glory, and I think Laibach explore this territory in an interesting, smart way. In other words, Laibach makes art, not politically orthodox sloganeering in song form.

    While it’s probably true that many artists are explicitly leftist and that the left dominates the arts in general, and so it’s right to be suspicious and take things with a grain of salt, it’s also very true that many artists find politics banal and beneath what they’re up to. In the kind of area opened up by that artistic approach, one will find all sorts of dissident and politically incorrect ideas – the best ones will rise to the level of myth and have enduring power. The greatest art rarely obeys any political orthodoxy. Political art tends to be boring and preachy.

  3. DaShui
    Posted March 16, 2014 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    The lead singer looks just like Sasha Cohen the not so funny comedian.

  4. Petronius
    Posted March 16, 2014 at 11:57 am | Permalink
  5. Posted March 14, 2014 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    Someone asked them is they were fascists and one of the band members replied “We are fascists as much as Hitler was a painter.”

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted March 14, 2014 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

      That’s a yes, then.

  6. eiszeit
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    I hate it when Alt-Righters make excuses for bands who’ve flat-out said they’re not on our side.

    Laibach did the soundtrack to the anti-Nazi parody film Iron Sky, which promotes race-mixing between White women and male blacks.

    They’re just another leftist band like DiJ that uses fascistic imagery to conjure up shallow controversy.

    • Petronius
      Posted March 14, 2014 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

      You appear not only a bit square, but also misinformed. DiJ “leftist”, I’ve never heard that one before. And when did Laibach ever say anything “flat-out”? If anything, their latest albums bear messages that weigh far more than music for a sci-fi spoof…

    • Axe of Perun
      Posted March 17, 2014 at 4:19 am | Permalink

      The most boring “band” in the world ever. They are a bunch of posers, who after 35 years still can not play instruments, so they rely on borrowed musicians. They are heavily sponsored by Slovenian Ministry of Culture. They are leftists to the bone and I would recommend to Mr.Johnson and Mr. Liddell to stay away from these rascals. I wouldnt be writing these lines if I have not know them personaly. We were all members of the same alter-rock scene in Ljubljana, back in early eighties.

      • Greg Johnson
        Posted March 17, 2014 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

        I don’t look for virtuoso musicianship from Laibach. I look for humor and conceptual brilliance. I think the Slovenian’s are getting value for their subsidies, if that is true. As for their views: Well, anybody can say anything and claim any experience on the internet, but I don’t find your claims credible. As Colin says in his review, Laibach’s satires on the sleepers could only be penned by those who are awake. This is my view as well. I believe that their Volk album could only have been created by ethnonationalists. See my analysis here. http://www.counter-currents.com/2010/07/volk-music/

  7. Petronius
    Posted March 14, 2014 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    A bonus track cover version of Death in June’s “Runes and Men” for this album was announced some time ago. For a brief time it was on Youtube even… now it has disappeared, and any information about it as well. Another “spectre”?

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